Ernest Hemingway’s short story, A Clean Well Lighted Place, created literary controversy when it was initially published in 1933. During this time, there were several literary critics concerned with the dialogue inconsistencies. In the original story, the reader would not be able to distinguish between the two waiters. Hemingway failure to identify the characters by name leaves the story flawed according to the literary critics. Hemingway does not go into the mind of any characters but chooses to describe events from a distance. Thomson (1983) postulates that there are three issues with the text of A Clean Well-Lighted Place:”
1. The content of the story is difficult to understand and requires revision.
2. The flow of conversation in the story is not the traditional way to present literary discussion.3. The content of the story is correct but difficult to decipher.
It is important to note that the three issues are crucial, but it does not obliterate the concept of the story. Although there is not a main idea stated, the tone establishes the cadence for the story.
The introduction offers the reader the first glimpse of loneliness. For example, Hemingway introduces the deaf man first but does not describe him. All the reader knows is that he is deaf, drinks a little too much and that he has a leather purse. Empathy is an immediate emotion as the story begins. The reader is saddened by the fact that the old man sits in the shadows and becomes inebriated. The old man is lonely and has no one to go home to so he stays at the cafe and drinks. Loneliness can be darkness, dankness, depression and desperation. Hemingway offers different ideas of loneliness throughout this story.
The cafe represents brightn…
…eaving the cafe, both men are thrown back into reality and into the throes of loneliness. The final criticism evolves in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer which reveals his feelings about the non-existent God. The reader has to assume that this is a suggestion of depression and loneliness. The old man is lonely and stumbles drunkenly home to nothing and loneliness. The old waiter strolls into another bar to avoid going home to loneliness and insomnia. In the end, both men are denied the comfort of a clean, well lit cafe.
Hemingway, E. (2013). A Clean, Well-lighted Place. In X.J. Kennedy & D. Goia (Eds.). The Literature Collection: an e-text (Vita Source digital version) (p.48). Boston,MA: Pearson Education, Inc.Thomson, G. (1983). A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. Interpreting the Original Text. Hemingway
Review, 2 (2), 32-43.