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Setting Matters: “Cat in the Rain”, “A Rose for Emily”

A person telling a story is likely to provide some setting to help listeners acknowledge relevant contexts. The setting, being one of the central components of literary works, serves as a background where certain events take place (Khrais, 2017). Some may even think that authors mention the place where their stories are set just to shed light on a bigger picture or to make their stories look more diverting.

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Nevertheless, the setting is instrumental in explaining the characters’ behaviors, the authors’ major points, and the overall relevance of the story (Matos & de A. Oliveira, 2017). This element contributes to meaning-making and characters’ development, which can be seen when analyzing the settings in “Cat in the Rain” by Ernest Hemingway and “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.

In both stories, the main characters are females who are not properly integrated into the outside world. They both feel discomfort when trying to fit in but fail to do so, which shapes their behavior as well as their personalities. In the two stories, the females are affected by macro- and microcosms, just like any other person in the real world. In Hemingway’s story, the American wife is placed in the microcosm of her hotel room and the macrocosm of an Italian town (Hemingway, n.d.).

Emily, in Faulkner’s story, lives in the microcosm of her family house and the macrocosm of her Southern town (Faulkner, n.d.). At that, these settings have a different impact on the women oppressing and liberating them in a specific manner. The focus of this paper is on the theme of oppression as it has the largest influence on the development of the two characters in quite similar ways.

The American wife is bored in a hotel room on a rainy day, trying to entertain herself in ways available to her. The woman feels isolated, even in a small room with her husband, who barely pays attention to her feelings. The setting confines the female’s options to a limited number of alternatives. The only available means for her are quite feminine, including taking care of her appearance or taking care of a cat, or, in other words, nurturing a more wretched creature.

The wife attempts to confront the setting, leaving the room she feels bored in and taking control of a cat. Notably, the woman is supported by outside forces, mainly the padrone. However, she fails to achieve her goal and has to go back to the microcosm making her feel powerless. This feeling is enhanced when the padrone sends a maid with the cat. The setting oppresses the main character, making her submit to it and the established conventions.

Likewise, the setting oppresses Emily, who is not regarded as a living person with her passions and her right to make choices. The town (its residents) sees the female as the symbol of the past (Khrais, 2017). She is deprived of the chance to fit in as the entire town itself isolates her. The setting makes Emily alienate herself from those who treat her like an old vase. The town makes Emily arrogant (or at least, behave accordingly) as everyone thinks she is an embodiment of decency. Similarly to the American wife, Emily tries to escape attempting to free herself from the oppression of the setting.

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Nevertheless, Faulkner makes her fail and return to the town where she belongs. Being a part of the town, Emily is confronted with it, making her lose her mind and become a vicious murderer. Again, Emily, as any female in the man’s world, is guided and supported by powerful others. The community takes care of the submissive woman who ages and has the role of a piece of décor.

In both stories, the setting is not the background helping the reader to understand the circumstances affecting the characters. The setting is one of the main characters defining the course of the story. The two women feel oppressed and use different ways to escape, but they both fail and return to their roles as elements of the setting. The American wife is an object to look at for the husband in the moments when he is “resting his eyes from reading” (Hemingway, n.d., p. 2).

After a brief attempt to rebel, the wife goes back to her role as an element of the setting. Likewise, Emily is a component of the setting to be cherished. She is integrated into the canvas of the town, without any right to live.

On balance, it is necessary to note that the setting can play a central role in telling a story. In Hemingway’s and Faulkner’s short stories, the setting defines the behavior and future of the main characters. The American wife and Emily are unable to escape from the oppression of the outside world, and they become submissive performers of the assigned roles. The setting makes the two females have secret zones of comfort (a cat for the wife and a dead fiancé for Emily). Therefore, it is obvious that the setting is something more than just a place or time because it shapes the development of characters.


Faulkner, W. (n. d). A rose for Emily. Web.

Hemingway, E. (n. d). ‘Cat in the rain’. Web.

Khrais, S. M. (2017). “An eyesore among eyesores”: The significance of physical setting in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 6(6), 123-126. Web.

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Matos, N. A., & Oliveira, L. D. (2017). Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce: A brief analysis of the modernist traits in their short stories. Revista Letras Raras, 6(1), 198-208. Web.

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