The multi-faceted shapes and messages that the story has makes it a typical "Hemingwayan" short story. Hemingway was a "Lost Generation" era writer;one who directly witnessed and experienced some of the barbaric wars of the century and one who was personally injured in a war-front, reminding his readers of a character in "The Sun Also Rises"who was injured in a war and thus made sexually handicapped.
Hemingway manages to catch the post-war mood of disillusionment and dissatisfaction by forging an enormous impression through the economy of his style and the "toughness" of attitude of mind.
The aura encircling the present story is of such. The whole story can probably be recapped in its attempt at depicting the barrenness, sterility, incomprehensibility, and misunderstanding that rule the modern world and life which have immensely been affected by modern technology and the resultant automated, robotic life.
Among all these, lack of communication screams at us. Quite ironically, a world which enjoys incomparable wealth of technological communications, the modern man is unable to establish emotional contact with the people around him; this can even engulf a married life, traditional symbol of unity and mutual understanding.
The woman's strong child-wish and the man sexual impotence make it relatively taxing to have an emotional relation with one another. The wandering couple, both physically and psychologically, have their own pursuits in feeling from the mere thought of a child; the man seeks refuge among his books and the woman daydreams and thinks of saving or having a cat.
The only way that the woman finds in relieving herself from this situation is through making reveries or complaining. The reveries are those of possessing a child. When the Italian girl asks her if she lost something, she replies "Yes", a cat "under the table....Oh , I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty. "The indefinite article "a" in" I wanted a kitty "shows that she is not necessarily looking for a specific cat. It can be any cat and it actually can be a child. At her return George asks a cursory question, "Did you get the cat?".
For a moment he becomes reflective and thoughtful saying "wonder where it want to." He does not have an immediate answer for this predicament and so resorts to his book starting to read, a solace to his incomprehension of this unsolvable life puzzle. On the other hand the wife has the same bizarre and incomprehensible feeling as her husband. "I don't know why I wanted it so much.
I wanted that poor kitty." She avoids the thought of the cat by siting "in front of the mirror of the dressing - table looking at herself...." as he did by studying. The woman is sick and tired of the status quo; she wants some variety and change in her life. Therefore she puts a suggestion to her husband, asking if it would be good if she let her hair grow out. George gives the much expected answer, " I like it the way it is"; meaning that he would not like her to undergo a change. His wife who is completely hopeless and frustrated starts to the window and in a whispering dramatic monologue says, "I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back I can feel....I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her."
George's train of thought is momentarily broken encouraging him to require "Yeah?" The wife does not answer; she goes on with an "and" connecting her disrupted flow of words her wishes with "and I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. And I want it to be spring...." "Oh shut up and get something to read," comes from George who finds reading a much better solution in forgetting one's sorrows and pains and not daydreaming, another manifestation of a life lacking communication and understanding.
Desperate and furious, she insists on having a cat, "Anyway, I want a cat,...I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can't have long hair or any fun, I can have a cat. "Contrary to impotent George, there is the virile person of the manager of the hotel, "with his odd, heavy face and big hands." Clearly the woman has taken a fancy to this "deadly serious" fellow. The hotel manager is very respectful to her and tries to attend to whatever she wants, something rarely happening in her life. Upon her returning to the hotel, again she meets manager with the same masculine, sexually-appealing and dignified face. He arouses a sense of strange ambiguous feeling within her; it is feeling of insignificance and a feeling of eminence.
The woman's agitation and perplexity are calmed down by the intrusion of the Italian servantess of the hotel who came in with a "big-tortoise shell cat." symbolically the manager fulfilled her dream and gave her what she hoped to have.