“Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl and “Cat in the Rain” by Ernest Hemingway are both short stories about relationships between a man and a woman. These stories have several similarities and differences, which I am going to look upon in this article.
"Cat in the Rain" is situated in a hotel in Italy where the couple are spending their holiday. The husband is lying in bed, reading. He doesn’t give any signs to move, nor does he show any interest in his wife. He is in other words passive. When the American wife spots a cat out in the rain and tells her husband she’s going to get it, he offers to get it for her, but he doesn’t move a finger. This indicates that it was just a polite suggestion and he wasn’t really planning on going out in the rain for the cat, but he probably already knew what the wife’s answer would be. "The husband went on reading, lying propped up with the two pillows at the foot of the bed".
In "Lamb to the Slaughter", Patrick Maloney decides to tell his wife he wants a divorce. Mary Maloney reacts in a completely different way than the American husband in the other short story. At first she pretends she never heard it and leaves the room to find a lamb leg for dinner. She hits her husband in the back of his head, and he dies. Their relationship was very itchy from the beginning of the story, because of their cold responses and lack of lovely gestures. Patrick is clearly hiding something from his wife, and even though she knows there's something wrong, she decides to act normally and ignore his tension. Unlike George in "Cat in the Rain", she knows something is going to happen. She knows she's not in control, and that if her husband decides to leave her she won't be able to stand in his way. Patrick is very tense, and he's not certain of how his wife will react to him wanting a divorce. He’s more direct than the American wife, which probably means that the Maloney relationship has gone a bit further in the wrong direction compared to George and his wife’s relationship.
It seems like the Americans' relationship in "Cat in the rain", is based on formality. They start with a formal conversation, but as soon as the wife mentions she wants something he instantly starts ignoring her: "Did you get the cat?" he asked, putting the book down. "It was gone." "Wonder where it went to?" he said, resting his eyes from reading. She sat down on the bed. "I wanted it so much", she said, "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." George was reading again. The fact that he ignores her might be a sign that he's not interested in discussing her needs and wishes.
Mary and Patrick Maloney's relationship is also based on formality like: "Hullo Darling," "Tired darling?" and "Darling, shall I get your slippers?" Patrick replies in a very passive way, with only short and direct answers like "yes" and "no".
"Cat in the Rain" is a very symbolic short story where the reader must concentrate and read between the lines at all times. The cat is supposed to symbolise the American wife's longing for something different and exciting in the relationship. Perhaps she wants a baby, someone to take care of and keep her distracted, or maybe she's just longing for excitement and despair. Whatever the interpretation, it's something her husband is determined not to give her freely.
Both women characters are the weak link in their relationships. The American wife acts as if she knows her meanings and thoughts are of no interest to George, and Mary Maloney would rather see her husband dead than in the arms of another woman. Mary knows she can't handle a life without her husband: probably both because of her financial situation and the humiliation.
There are many similarities and differences between the short stories, and the red thread is CHANGE. The American wife wants change, but doesn't get it. Her husband, George indirectly declines her several times. Patrick Maloney wants change, he's leaving his wife, but ends up dead instead because his wife doesn't see any other solution to the problem. There's a weak and powerless link in both relationships: the women, who have no saying on the subject. There's a relationship filled with people taking each other for granted. It is inevitably not to mention some of the most prominent differences: the characters' wishes are crossed between the sexes. Patrick and the American wife are the yearning individuals in the relationship; they want excitement and fun, while George and Mary are seeking the calm and comforting life. At the end of the short story "Lamb to the Slaughter", you've had a turning point in the relationship - Patrick is dead. "Cat in the Rain" has no clear inflection point - the relationship goes on like normal.