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Resisting the Urge

Resisting the Urge

Temptation is something that has long been a factor in the lives of women. Despite what some might say, women have always been tempted to stray from their streamline lives and better them in any way. What began the outbreak of temptation was the women's movement in the 1920's, when women began to realize that they were in control of their lives and that they could do as they please. One way women used the power of their new found freedom was in relationships, when they determined they no longer had to stay with someone who didn't make them happy or didn't allow for their new freedoms. It is no surprise that in today's society, resistance and temptation play an even bigger role in the lives of women. Stories from all over the country, ranging from movies, to television and especially stories in the news tell of resistance and temptation as it is shown in women's lives now, the most recent example being the alleged affair between the president and Monica Lewinsky.

In Hemingway's "Cat in the Rain," a short story from the 1920's, this issue is dealt with through the show of the wife's temptation for material things and desire to resist her husband, as well as through the possibility of infidelity, specifically emotional infidelity. A similar picture to this 1920's situation occurs in director Andrew Bergman's film Honeymoon in Vegas, where Betsy's need for resistance against her boyfriend causes her to be tempted by material things, as well as infidelity. Since the time of the women's movement in the 1920's, when the desire for resistance in women's lives began to prevail, women have continued to change, but what these two instances show are that throughout time, something has remained the same. Women are given a taste of what they could have in their lives, they no longer feel happy with what they already have. This lack of happiness creates a need for resistance, and the introduction of someone new, someone who can fill this lack of happiness is what causes infidelity in relationships. In Hemingway's "Cat in the Rain" and the contemporary film Honeymoon in Vegas, both women are exposed to someone new, someone who provides a glimpse of hope for change, and both women are looking for a way to ensure happiness in their lives, something women in society have been after from the 1920's all the way to the 1990's.

The 1920's brought change when women began to resist against men and the power they seemed to hold in relationships. In "Cat in the Rain," the wife is tired of being her old self, repressed and controlled by her husband and societal standards, much like women of the time. She is basically tired of being defenseless in a society where men hold power, because "It isn't any fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain." (93) The wife attempts to rescue a cat that was stuck out alone in the pouring rain and that is helpless and defenseless. When she goes to find the cat, she fails to rescue it, but instead finds it is gone and has rescued itself. At this point, a comparison is drawn between the wife and the cat. The wife's situation is portrayed as lonely and deprived against a world more powerful than her, in her case her husband, as she shows her desire to have the cat, and later the desire for other material things. The cat is seen as representative of the wife because similarly, the cat is portrayed as alone and defenseless against a world more powerful than it, the stormy night. As the cat saves itself, the wife decides that she too can save herself.

The wife sees what she wants to change, what needs improvement, and that is the ideal shared by many women in the 1920's, such as the rebellious flappers with their short hair and even shorter skirts; a desire to become an individual, to have the material things they think they deserve to have, to show off their femininity, and to resist against the hold that men seem to have over them. The wife shows her desire for change and resistance by standing up to her husband, telling him that she wants to grow out her hair so she looks like a woman, and telling him that she wants a cat, and she wants fine silver, and she wants new clothes. The wife resists her husband's attempts to keep her under his control by not giving up when he tries to hamper her desires.

A desire for change is often easily fulfilled by the appearance of someone new, someone more desirable and promising. Often, it is the emergence of a new, different, and exciting man in a woman's life that causes a woman to see what is lacking in her life, and be tempted by what she is given that could be hers. In "Cat in the Rain." the wife is tempted by the hotel-keeper of the hotel her and her husband are staying at as he seems to be able to provide something her husband can't, a fulfillment to her unanswered desires. When the wife sees the hotel-keeper on her way out to rescue the cat, she is overwhelmed by the power and simply seductive nature his presence carries, by the way he wants to serve her and make her happy. As she passes him, they meet eyes and the look he gives her creates a feeling of superiority in her, a "momentary feeling of supreme importance," (93) and that is almost seductive in the way it gives her a feeling of power. In contrast, her husband pays no attention to her, barely acknowledging her presence. The hotel-keeper gives her a feeling her husband couldn't provide, a feeling of being taken care of, of being desired. He does so through his seductive glances, and by sending her an umbrella to protect her from the rain. Going back to the wife and cat comparison, the hotel-keeper giving the wife the umbrella shows how he is her protection from the more powerful world, her husband. When the wife comes back, the husband doesn't seem to care about whether or not she found the cat, and doesn't care about any of the other things she wants. But the hotel-keeper sends up a gift for the wife, a cat. In doing so, he's fulfilling the desires of the wife, the desires that originally sparked the wife's resistance to her husband. Infidelity was an issue that was brought out in the women's movement of the time as women like the flappers, began to explore their femininity and sexuality, and this story illustrates how the temptation was certainly present for infidelity to occur, especially because of the rising resistance women had against the controlling power of men in society.

In Honeymoon in Vegas, Betsy resists against a different attitude held by the man in her life. Instead of looking to get away from a controlling husband as the wife in "Cat in the Rain" is, Betsy is looking to get a more permanent commitment from her boyfriend, Jack, because she is tired of her single life and is ready for a change, marriage. Jack, however, is not as ready for this change and puts off Betsy's unhappiness. This struggle between Jack and Betsy over whether or not they will marry reflects the values of the nineties. Women are more openly looking for commitment in relationships, and men are more timid to give one. This unfulfilled desire of Betsy's is what drives her to resist against Jack, and she finally sets an ultimatum; either he marry her, or they stop seeing each other. Betsy refuses to give up her fight and Jack finally agrees to marry her, just as the wife did with her husband in "Cat in the Rain." The wife continued to resist her husband by continuing to insist she get the material objects she wanted, even after he told her to shut up and stopped listening, just as Betsy continues to resist Jack's false promises of a true commitment, marriage, by telling him it's now or never. Betsy's awareness of her resistance is what eventually leads to her infidelity.

Betsy resists against Jack in order to have her need for commitment and marriage fulfilled, and she soon finds herself in a situation similar to the wife in "Cat in the Rain," the introduction of someone new and promising. Jack meets Tommy Korman, a rich gambler, when he and Betsy travel to Las Vegas to get married. When Jack loses a round of poker and can't afford to pay the debt to con man Tommy, he offers to forget the money in exchange for the weekend with Betsy, who closely resembles his dead wife Donna. Betsy's fulfillment and awareness does not come with allowing herself to be traded, but rather later, when Tommy whisks the reluctant Betsy off to his island home in Hawaii. Here, he buys her expensive gifts and treats her like a princess, giving her a taste of luxury with him, and even a true hope for commitment, something she still had not found with Jack. Betsy is tempted by him, by his gifts, and the new excitement he brings to her, excitement she wasn't getting with Jack as he couldn't even give her a commitment. Betsy's temptation reflects how society in the nineties values material objects and how extravagance is enough to tempt a woman and lead her to infidelity. As with "Cat in the Rain," sexual infidelity never occurs between Betsy and Tommy, but emotionally, infidelity does occur. Betsy has an obvious conflict of emotions as she considers Tommy's generous offers of a wonderful life filled with all the material objects she could ever need, and this conflict of emotions constitutes infidelity as she is being emotionally untrue to Jack. Betsy is turned against Jack through the sweetness of Tommy, and she even allows him to call her Donna because of his sweetness. The relationship developed between Tommy and Betsy in Honeymoon in Vegas shows how emotional infidelity remains present from the 1920's, as in "Cat in the Rain," and also how this infidelity is caused by the resistance and the fulfillment of the desire caused by this resistance, which in Betsy's case is the need for commitment.

Throughout American history, women have been in a constant struggle to better their lives, particularly in the last one hundred years, starting in the time after the first world war. In the 1920's, women found themselves with the new power of being able to control their own lives and happiness, the power to resist what was more powerful than them. The 1990's hold a different place for women, and although rebellion and resistance are no longer the hottest issues, women are still fighting to resist the powerful hold men have in society. Recent years have brought many changes for women, such as a mother's right to an abortion in "Roe vs. Wade," and the fight for job and salary equality. The struggle for happiness is reflected through the actions and emotional infidelity of the women in Hemingway's "Cat in the Rain," as well as in the contemporary movie Honeymoon in Vegas.