In Our Time: Chapter 9,10
Chapter XI, page 83
At a bullfight, the first matador in the ring is gored through his sword hand. The crowd hoots him. A second matador slips and the bull gores him through the stomach and rams him into a wall. The matador tries to get up and continue the fight, but he faints. Next, “the kid” comes out and is faced with all the bulls the other two matadors failed to kill—five in all. He manages to kill all five, although the last is hard because the matador is so tired. The crowd, who felt that the last bull was a good bull, hoots at the matador and throws things at him after he vomits and collapses in the ring.
This short glimpse into the masculine world of bullfighting, a topic which fascinated Hemingway, reveals how matadors face danger in order to entertain often fickle crowds. Like gladiatorial sport, bullfighting requires both skill and bravery, but the ultimate measure of a bullfighter is how the crowd receives him.
“Mr. and Mrs. Elliot,” pages 85-88
“Mr. and Mrs. Elliot tried very hard to have a baby. They tried as often as Mrs. Elliot could stand it.” After their wedding in Boston, they tried, and they tried again on their post-wedding journey to Europe, although Mrs. Elliot was seasick, and the sickness did nothing to hide the fact that she was about forty, much older than her husband. Mr. Elliot was a twenty-five-year-old man doing postgraduate work in law at Harvard, and he was a successful poet. He had kept himself a virgin until he married Mrs. Elliot, who was also, she claimed, a virgin.
Hubert Elliot had known Cornelia, a Southern woman, from the tea shop that she and another woman ran in Boston. One day, dancing to the gramophone in the back room, the two suddenly kissed, and the next thing Hubert knew, he was engaged. Their wedding night was a disappointment. On their journey to Europe on the boat, “It was possible to try to have a baby but Cornelia could not attempt it very often although they wanted a baby more than anything else in the world.” From Paris, where they tried to have a baby, they went to live in Dijon, where Cornelia typed Hubert’s poems and cried when he was critical of her mistakes. They tried to have a baby there, too. They collected a set of friends, and all of them went to Touraine, where the Elliots rented a chateau. Cornelia persuaded Hubert to let her friend from the tea shop come live with them. She, too, was a Southern woman.
After the set of friends drifts off to another place, the three of them are left alone in the chateau. Hubert drinks a lot of white wine. The friend turns out to be a better typist than Cornelia. Hubert and Cornelia try to have a baby “in the big hot bedroom on the big, hard bed.” Eventually, Hubert moves to his own separate room, and Cornelia shares her room with the friend. They are all very happy with these arrangements.
The narrator’s ironic tone in this story reveals several pieces of information to readers. The opening sentences, “Mr. and Mrs. Elliot tried very hard to have a baby. They tried as often as Mrs. Elliot could stand it,” establish right away that the Elliots’ marriage is not all it should be, but it is unclear who might be at fault. That Hubert Elliot “could never remember just when it was decided that they were to be married” suggests that the boy was tricked into marriage by the older, perhaps desperate Cornelia, who was “pure too.” The question, of course, is why the Elliots cannot conceive a child, despite their attempts at sex, ironically referred to as their attempts “to have a baby.” That Mrs. Elliot might find sex with her husband distasteful, and that she might be taking measures to prevent pregnancy, become plausible facts when she requests the presence of her girl friend from the tea shop. She seems to prefer the company of her woman friend to that of her husband. That Mr. Elliot finally “gets it” is evidenced by his drinking and his removal to a separate bedroom. The narrator’s use of euphemisms for sex and use of irony suggest that this is a “modern” rather than a traditional marriage.
Chapter X, page 89
“They” strike the white horse on the legs to make it canter with its rider, a “picador” who uses a lance from horseback to fight bulls. The horse has already been injured, presumably gored by the bull, and its entrails hang out. He canters jerkily. The picador jabs his spurs into the horse to make it go forward as he threatens the bull. The horse is wobbly. The bull “could not make up his mind to charge.”
The narrator is observing a bullfight. He comments on the brutality and the abuse the horse suffers as if it is an everyday occurrence. From the narrator’s noncommittal tone and lack of judgmental adjectives, readers cannot tell whether he approves or disapproves of this manly sport. Readers are presented with the truth—and left to judge for themselves.
“Cat in the Rain,” pages 91-94
An American couple is staying in a hotel where they know no one. Their room faces the sea, as well as the public garden below and the bronze war monument. A thunderstorm has brewed up, and the square in which the monument stands is deserted as the American wife looks out her hotel window. She spies a cat hunched under a café table, trying to keep dry. She declares that she is going downstairs to get that cat. Her husband, reading on the bed, tells her not to get wet.
She passes the hotel keeper, an old man who is very dignified and polite to her. She likes the way he acts towards her. As she stands in the doorway about to go out into the rain, a maid with an umbrella appears. The wife knows the gentlemanly hotel keeper sent her. The maid holds the umbrella over the wife as she goes into the rain to search for the cat. She does not find the cat, however. The maid insists that she return indoors.
As she passes the hotel keeper again, the wife feels “very small and at the same time very important.”
In their room, the husband, George, puts down his book and asks if she was successful. She says “ ‘I don’t know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor kitty. It isn’t any fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain.’” Her husband returns to reading, so she sits before her dressing table mirror and examines her face. She asks if she should let her hair grow out. George admires her and says she looks “‘pretty darn nice.’” He continues to watch her as she goes to the window and speaks of letting her hair grow long enough to put in a chignon, of having a cat purring on her lap, of having a table with silver and candles, of having new clothes in the spring.
Her husband tells her to shut up and returns to his reading. She continues to gaze out the window at the rain and the darkening square below. Someone knocks on the door, and when it opens, the maid is standing with a large tortoise-shell cat. She says the hotel keeper sent it to the wife.
As with so many male-female relationships in this book, the American couple’s relationship seems strained. They do not really seem to hear one another. The woman is restless and bored, disenchanted; the husband seems bored as well, attracted to his lovely wife for sex, but not interested in her emotional state and her petty whining. She seems very young, perhaps younger than her husband. The cat represents the warmth and devotion that she seeks; if only it were as simple as tripping out into the rain to find love and respect. On another level, the cat might represent her desire for a child, someone to hold and love and care for. That the hotel keeper sees into the wife’s heart and understands her longing is chivalrous; his act in giving her the cat is the act of someone who truly sees her.