Analysis of a Clean Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place has been judged by scholars for over 60 years (Ryan). Hemingway’s short story was revised in 1965, when it was re-published in the short story collection Winner Take Nothing, a few months after from when its original text was published in Scribner’s Magazine (Ryan). The controversy surrounds an ostensible inconsistency and the idea of intentional ambiguity, which confuses the reader as to which character is saying what. The difference went unnoticed for over twenty-six years until 1959, when it was brought to the light with articles by F.P. Kroeger and William Colburn (Ryan). Scribner perceived this as a typographical error when he amended the story. There have been conflicts from both sides of those who believe the emendation is valid, providing sensical metronomic order, and those who favor the original text, for Hemingway purposely using a deliberate device of ambiguity, which his previous stories are familiar with.

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Ken Ryan argues against the emendation stating that the emendation is not valid and should be retracted. Ryan states the importance of understanding the substantial evidence to recognize the conditions that must exist before any author’s work can rightfully be considered for emendation. I agree with Ryan’s argument about the three main points on why the emendation is invalid. To begin with, no typographical error was made, the inconsistency is critical to the effect sought by Hemingway, Hemingway was proud of the original, leading to the invalidation of the overall emendation. The untagged dialogue, and lack of obvious plot has the qualities of becoming greater with ambiguity. There is no significant evidence that leads us to believe that his inconsistency was an error. David Kerner points out that genuine dialogue is not uniformly metronomic, he then gives the example from that of a tennis match (Kerner).

I agree with this statement because in a natural conversation, it does not happen consistently. Kerner then states that Literacy conventions after all, are not laws. Although most authors consistently indented in their dialogue to indicate a new speaker, that doesn’t mean writers must always follow this guideline. Perhaps, this perceived error was merely a deliberate device to strengthen the story. Hemingway himself approved of the inconsistency in the print saying that it all continued to make perfect sense to him. I believe that these so called conventional guidelines are not to decide the articulation of the author and his/her choice of direction. About Hemingway, his consent of the original text communicates thereof the emendation is a disservice to his rights as the author.

The emendation may be injudicious to some, but that fact remains that it exists and has already officially been published. As mentioned previously by Ryan, a retraction of the emendation should surely restore the originality of the story as well as the authors imperfected conventions. The original text allows the reader to get involved and discover for themselves the dialogue that goes with the identities of each waiter. Towards the end of the story, the older waiter finds himself sitting at the bar, emulating the old man. In his monologue, the old waiter stresses the word nada meaning nothing.

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Analysis of A Clean Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway. (2019, Jul 08). Retrieved August 17, 2022 , from
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