A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Questions and Answers
by Ernest Hemingway

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What is the tone and style of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"?

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The tone of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by American writer Ernest Hemingway is a matter-of-fact, direct tone. It is an unbiased reporting by Hemingway of this story stored in his mind, as if it was a real incident and he was relaying “Just the facts ma’am.” (With apologies to Jack Webb on the TV series Dragnet).

Hemingway is reporting, dryly and without emotion, a moment in time in a café one night. The tone is almost deadpan, as if told by a poker player with a straight face not wanting to reveal anything, especially emotion or any sense of real concern.

The style of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is one of unembellished discourse. It is a factual account of what is happening in this clean café. It does not mean that this is a true account, though.

Hemingway, through the eyes of the two waiters is giving a factual account of what is happening in the moment in the cafe. Nevertheless, do the waiters really know the whole truth about this old man? Do they really know the truth of his life and what brought him to this point? Do they really understand his life with his niece? Do they know for sure what caused this old man to try and kill himself?

This unadorned style of writing makes the reader concentrate on the heart of the story. There is no flowery language to distract the reader from the harshness of this story. The harshness is the way the old man is confronting and dealing with old age – all its challenges in what can be a very cruel world.

Furthermore, this plain style mimics the austereness of this simple café on a dusty street. The austere writing also mimics the stark reality of a man in his eighties having to drink alone in some café/bar and having to stumble home somewhat after he’s imbibed too much.

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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,...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 953 words.)

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