Which are the sentences that establish the style of Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It stands to reason that the opening sentences, particularly the first sentence, must be the ones to establish the style of a story. And this maxim is true for hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place." Yet, since so much of this story is told as dialogue, then later as the old waiter's soliloquy (speeches in which speakers addresses themselves), a sentence written after the opening is also instrumental in establishing style.

The first sentence Hemingway writes sets up the style, as it rightly should and must do. In it, he incorporates and establishes the tone, instructive symbolism, foreshadowing, and theme. He also establishes his terse, concise, information-packed sentence style.

It was very late and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light.

The tone is distanced and objective but not unemotional: "very late and everyone had left" has an emotional, lonely quality to it. The symbolism in "an old man who sat in the shadow" is instructive of the existential despair and suggests the theme. Foreshadowing in the "old man," the "leaves," and the "electric light," leads to and prepares for the old waiter's soliloquy and delivery of the full theme.

The full thesis of existential despair that overwhelms after the full blush of youth is gone is established in the first sentence of dialogue spoken by an unnamed "one waiter":

"Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said.

In these two sentences, Hemingway's style is fully and firmly established, from style of establishing tone to establishing sentence style to establishing his style for revealing his thesis and themes.

wrockwell | Student

what repetitions of words or phrases seem particularly effective

wrockwell | Student

point to sentences that establish the style of the story and what is distinctivein them

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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