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“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

This research will examine the work of Ernest Hemingway through the short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by employing a formative analytical perspective.  The primary focus will be to explore the concepts of absolutism and nothingness simultaneously alliterated throughout the dialogue between the two waiters and through the interjections of the one elderly patron in the restaurant (Hemingway).   The discussion will include an exploration of absolutism through the use of the term “Nothing” as it is used throughout the text, such as when one waiter attempts to describe the reasons for the elderly man’s perpetual drunkenness as well as his suicide attempt, both of which seem to be absolutes in the story (Hemingway).  This paper employs a case-study approach to examine the use of story-telling and how the method undertaken impacts literary comprehension through the deliberate disorganization of the dialogue between the two waiters.  The research will utilize literary resources to augment the argument of absolutism and explore the use nothingness as well as non-linear dialogue to demonstrate the concepts.

The research provides a simple formalism for structuring insight into the emotions, politics and “life” of organizations that demonstrates the developed story elicitation technique with a non-prescriptive investigative tool for studying the multidimensional nature of storytelling and legitimization.  Hemingway’s story is full of juxtapositions, exemplified in the guard and the lovers, the uses of light and shadow, emptiness and fullness, and contrasts between young and old in the two waiters (Bennett; Hemingway).  The conversation that opens the story with the two waiters illustrates the first uses of absolutism through expression of ‘nothingness’, as previously detailed (Hemingway).  Hemingway’s manipulation of the meanings of ‘nothing’ changes as the story progresses from the first indication, which is presented in the definitive term with an extension in the supposition implied that money is everything since the old suicidal man is rumored to be rich.  The flowing descriptive details of the square in the daytime with its warm, dusty streets and additional scenic descriptors creates a picturesque image of the outside site and lends an additional air of misgiving to the state of the old man in the gloom of night, presenting a contrast in absolutes of light and dark (Hemingway).

The continued discussion between the two waiters continues to explore the use of absolutisms in Hemingway’s ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’ and it is exemplified in various details within the plot through the difference in ideas held by the two waiters.  These difference are catalyzed in the attitudes the waiters hold regarding the presence of an eighty-year-old patron of the cafe who wants to stay late into the night drinking brandy so that he can enjoy the “clean, well-lighted place” that the café provides for the night (Hemingway).  This older expresses his own thought is this respect, which is missed by the younger waiter in his absolute quest to dispense with the old man so he could go home (Bluefarb).  Hemingway expertly uses the principles of dialogue in the story to establish the character and philosophical differences between the waiters (Gabriel).  However, the flaws in the sequence of dialogue confuse this important factorial attribute since the several dialogue sequences that comprise the bulk of the story do not seem to follow a common pattern that keeps it evidentiary whom is saying what throughout the conversations the waiters have with each other (Hemingway).

The dialogue discrepancies have been strenuously analyzed for their symbolic or other relevance to the story, plot, underlying themes, and implications regarding absolutism throughout the story, possibly intended to present discord in the absolute knowledge of who was speaking when.  The disjointed speaking in ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’ examines commonly used storytelling techniques that will help provide insight into the method Hemingway used in this scenario (Ferneley).  The lack of form in the temporal sequential organization of the story and affects the use of alliteration as well as the readers’ ability to visualize the story that Hemingway is trying to present (Gallagher).   This presents useful discord between the waiters as they banter about their deaf customer in their disorganized dialogue, forming relative alternate interpretations of ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’.  The discussion presents an alternative to the research hypothesis that Hemingway’s dialogue is deliberately chaotic in that this article assumes the disorganization is accidental (Gallagher).

Considering the formal attributes of medieval manuscript writings as well as modern theories of form, the association between written and oral texts, the vernacular of scribes, authorial arrangement of manuscripts, and many other aspects of descriptive or other forms of writing are apparent in the manner that Hemingway presents the conversations between the two waiters.  The author mandates the use of careful readings to clarify aspects of texts obscured by the disjointed dialogue and changes of perspectives between incidences of dialogue between the coworkers and the young waiter speaking to the old man (Hemingway).  Within literary culture, Hemingway presents a picture of mortality through three generations, as demonstrated in the perspectives of each character.  The elderly customer presents a historical perspective of the probable causes for the use of language in the short story as well as the organizational context of the dialogue between the two waiters (Marshall and Buchanan).  The suicide attempt represents the absolutism of death as a solution life’s problems (Hemingway).

In the historical perspective of the formalist approach to literary analysis, a social and political vantage is typically adapted, as demonstrated in the mention of the older man’s wealth and the mention of it in conjunction with his suicide attempt, as though money should eradicate all sadness.  The social class perspectives used in Hemingway’s literary forms are over-determined by their historical circumstances and thus multiple and variable in their results since they do not present consistently ideological or inherently demystificatory attributes in their contexts (Newstok).  This is indicative of the use of formalist concepts in Hemingway’s writings and provides a theoretical context for the use of conversation as a means of conveying the principle details of the story, including the life of the old man in ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’ (Newstok).  In the cruelty of the young waiter’s comments, Hemingway mimics the use of formalism throughout American literature of the nineteenth century and how such use has influenced the development of modern literature (Prus).  The organizational structure of the dialogue throughout ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’ provides further theoretical frameworks for the formalist interpretations of the content (Prus).

The structuralism demonstrated by the conversation in the story demonstrates symbolism and linguistic alliteration, which grant various interpretations of the reasoning for the use of the impressions of nothingness throughout the story to oppose the functionalist orientation of the young waiter’s perspective (Rapaport).  Since structuralism contends that humans accept language as they are born into it rather than them having the potential to create it, this gives another theoretical perspective about how and why, Hemingway has created the story dialogue in the designated fashion (Rapaport).   Hemingway’s use of dialogue as the primary components of the story present a narrative analysis regarding the question of form to provide a one-size-fits-all characterization of the concept of form in the conversations between the young waiter and the old man, which is descriptive of the various representations of literature and their various forms, which aids in providing perspective  (Wolfe).  Hemingway’s dialogue is striking in the lack of affection for the pitiful old man by both of the waiter’s but more so by the younger waiter.  The casual discussion of the old man’s attempted suicide emphasizes power of the subject matter since it is so unusual for a literary character to talk nonchalantly of ultimate concerns.

The mix of flat tone and violent topic is archetypal Hemingway dialogue and the comparison between the young waiter and the old man is another attempt to show that the despair of the old man is universal despair since the elderly condition will eventually be that of us all, which is exemplified in the young waiter’s declaration that he never wants to be so old.  Hemingway chooses not to attribute individual lines of dialogue to specific characters, giving further credence to the idea that language has no meaning because it is so hard to tell which waiter is speaking, providing another indication that the language is universal.

The cold, unforgiving atmosphere outside in the night description mirrors the setting inside in the negative tones of the hurried waiter rushing the man out of the café and wishing he had succeeded in his suicide attempt.  The fact that the waiters think the man is deaf injects a new piteous quality about the lonely old man that emphasizes the good/bad attributes in the two waiters.  Such a setting symbolically presents distinction of the negation of everything through the use of “Nothing”, often with a capital N as in the first instance of its use. The opposites displayed throughout the story describe the world in that they provide a sense of totality, which enhances the impressions of absolutism and creates an additional striking juxtaposition through the waiter’s unkind comment and the old man’s demand for more brandy. One of Hemingway’s major existentialist theses is that language ultimately does not communicate meaning, which is illustrated in the man’s response despite his being deaf.

Works Cited

Bennett, Warren. “The Manuscript and the Dialogue of “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”.” American Literature 50.4 (1979): 613-624.

Bluefarb, Sam. “The Search for the Absolute in Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”.” The Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association 25.1 (1971): 3-9.

Ferneley, Elaine. “An Investigation into Extracting and Analysing Stories.” International Journal of Organizational Analysis 17.2 (2009): 121-138.

Gabriel, Joseph F. “The Logic of Confusion in: Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”.” College English 22.8 (1961): 539-546.

Gallagher, Catherine. “Formalism and Time.” Modern Language Quarterly 61.1 (2000): 229-251.

Marshall, Helen and Peter Buchanan. “New Formalism and the Forms of Middle English Literary Texts.” Literature Compass 8.4 (2011): 164–172.

Newstok, Scott L. “Shakespeare and Historical Formalism.” Shakespeare Quarterly 59.4 (2008): 523,525,527.

Prus, R. T. “Formalism, Experience, and the Making of American Literature in the Nineteenth Century.” Choice 45.11 (2008): 1946.

Rapaport, Herman. The Literary Theory Toolkit: A Compendium of Concepts and Methods. First Edition. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2011.

Wolfe, Cary. “The Idea of Observation at Key West, Or, Systems Theory, Poetry, and Form Beyond Formalism.” New Literary History 39.2 (2008): 259,276,370.

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