Monday, August 19, 2019
Spiritual Emptiness in Hemingways A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Essay
Ernest Hemingway's short story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," first published in 1933, is written in his characteristic terse, unembellished style. The definition of "Style" is "the characteristics of language in a particular story and . . . the same characteristics in a writer's complete works" (Gioa and Gwynn, "Style" 861). Short words and a curt tone are so characteristic of Hemingway's style that writers frequently parody them in "International Imitation Hemingway" contests (Gioa and Gwynn, "Style" 861). But Hemingway could only his express this story's theme -- that there is nothing beyond the here and now of daily existence, no God to embellish our lives -- in an unembellished style of writing. The somewhat empty style of this short story is not "Imitation Hemingway"; it's consistent with the story's theme of spiritual emptiness. Almost thirty lines of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" are pure dialogue with few clues, other than what is said, about who is speaking. In the rest of the story, the percentage of words with more than two syllables is very low. Some biographers point out that Hemingway learned his rules of writing working for the Kansas City Star, whose style-book admonished reporters to "Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English, not forgetting to strive for smoothness" (qtd. in Desnoyers 2). Was the curt style of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" caused only by Hemingway's having learned writing from a newspaper style-book? He later said about those newspaper rules, "Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing. I've never forgotten them. No man with any talent, who feels and writes truly about the thing he is trying to say, can fail to write wel... .... "One True Sentence." The Longman Masters of Short Fiction. Eds. Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn. New York: Longman, 2002. 375-376. Desnoyers, Megan Floyd. "Ernest Hemingway: A Storyteller's Legacy." The Ernest Hemingway Collection. 12 December 2002. John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. 20 August 2003. . Gioia, Dana, and R.S. Gwynn. "Ernest Hemingway." The Longman Masters of Short Fiction. Eds. Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn. New York: Longman, 2002. 370-372. Gioia, Dana, and R.S. Gwynn. "Style." The Longman Masters of Short Fiction. Eds. Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn. New York: Longman, 2002. 861-862. The Hemingway Resource Center. "Ernest Hemmingway Biography>Key West." The Hemingway Resource Center. LostGeneration.com. 20 August 2003. .