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Ernest Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Essay

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Every piece of published work in literature is open to interpretation, and every person is entitled to have opinions, assumptions, and viewpoint. In a story shorter than 1,500 words, Ernest Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place has garnered serious debate and criticism. Written and published in 1933, Hemingway’s story containing a theme about nothing in several contexts has definitely given many critics something to talk about, but not about the usual theme, irony, or symbolism. The first 25 years after publishing the story were quiet, but a storm was brewing. In 1959, 2 critics brought forth some issues, and for the past 55 years the critics have been debating the conflicting dialogue between two main characters and whether the inconsistency was intended by Hemingway or a mistake by the original typesetter.
Within a story that has a basis of mostly dialogue, it would be logical for the reader to interpret which characters are speaking insomuch that the reader can understand the interactions of the characters. There are no names given to the two main characters—waiters working late in a café, one young and the other older. Also, there is very little reference to which one is speaking. This causes the reader to infer which character knows some of the key information that is being presented. The first critic to start the dialogue debate in 1959 is Dr. William E. Colburn who authored Confusion in ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’. Colburn declared, “The dialogue does not fit a logical pattern; there definitely is an inconsistency in the story” (241). At the same time in 1959, a college teacher named F. P. Kroeger wrote, “There has been what appears to be an insoluble problem in the dialogue” (240). These two initial statements have r...


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...13-624. JSTOR. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Colburn, William E. “Confusion in ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’.” College English. 20.5 (1959): 241-242. JSTOR. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Gabriel, Joseph F. “The Logic of Confusion in: Hemingway's ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’.” College English. 22.8 (1961): 539-546. JSTOR. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Kerner, David. “The Manuscripts Establishing Hemingway's Anti-Metronomic Dialogue.” American Literature. 54.3 (1982): 385-396. JSTOR. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Kroeger, F. P. “The Dialogue in ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’.” College English. 20.5 (1959): 240-241. JSTOR. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Reinert, Otto. “Hemingway's Waiters Once More.” College English , 20.8 (1959): 417-418. JSTOR. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Ryan, Ken. "THE CONTENTIOUS EMENDATION OF HEMINGWAY'S 'A CLEAN, WELL-LIGHTED PLACE'." The Hemingway Review 18.1 (1998): 78. Academic OneFile. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.



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