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What is the tone for "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway? Please provide...

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yanks46 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:17 AM via web

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What is the tone for "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway? Please provide examples.

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kimfuji | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:05 PM (Answer #1)

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The telling or narration of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" lets the reader to understand the depth of what the characters are saying. The story is mostly dialogue, and a lot of nothing or nada.  "nada nada nada" Hemingway style is referred to as the understatement which presents a tale, stripped of it's emotion and reactions; as a result the reader is jolted to recognize the power of the situation. He does not overtly judge his characters; for example, when waiter tells the old man, "You should have killed yourself last week", another style of writing would use adjectives to display the rudeness of the waiter.  Hemingway, however, just leaves the dialog and simple understated, style stand for itself: "'You should have killed yourself last week,' he said."

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:43 PM (Answer #2)

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The tone of Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Ligthed Place" is completely dispassionate.  Using his journalistic objectivity  and minimalist style, Hemingway simply reports what the waiters do and say in staccato dialogue. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the "waiter who is in a hurry breaks the rules of orderliness and adds to the chaos when he speaks

with that ommission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners. 'No mor tonight.  Close now.'

That Hemingway disapproves of the waiter who hurries the old man is apparent in the question and description of the second waiter:

'Why didn't you let him saty and drink?' the unhurried waiter asked.

'I want to go home to bed.'

'What is an hour?'

'More to me than to him.'

'An hour is the same.'

The young, hurried waiter tells the other that he talks like an old man himself, for he can just buy a bottle and drink at home.  But the older waiter argues, "It's not the same.'  The younger waiter agrees.  For, even he knows that there is no order to this taking a bottle home.

So, while the tone is dispassionate, there is yet an undertone of an existential act of order. The older waiter speaks of the ceremony of order to the younger waiter:

You do not understand.  This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted.  The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.

After the young waiter goes home, the older one continues the conversation with himself: 

It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too.  It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order.

This orderliness is what sustains a person; a "clean, well-lighted cafe was a very different thing."

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