Thursday, September 19, 2019
Ernest Hemingway :: essays research papers
"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" was published by Scribner's Magazine in March of 1933, but it was not until 1956 that an apparent inconsistency in the waiters' dialogue was brought to Hemingway's attention. Hemingway's thirteen word reply to Judson Jerome, an Assistant Professor of English at Antioch College, said that he had read the story again and it still made perfect sense to him. Despite this letter, Scribner's republished "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" in 1965 with a slight change in the waiters' dialogue that they argued would fix the apparent anomaly. Scribner's decision to alter the original text, the letter Hemingway wrote to Professor Jerome, and several papers on the subject all add up to a literary controversy that still churns among Hemingway scholars. I will argue that the original text is the correct text and Scribner's just failed to interpret it properly. They failed to notice nuances in Hemingway's writing that appear throughout many of his other works. They obviously thought Hemingway's reply to Professor Jerome was made without notice of the inconsistency. Most important, I believe they did not evaluate the character of the two waiters in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." A careful examination of the character of each waiter can make it apparent that the original text was correct and that there was no need for Scribner's to alter the text. The dialogue in question results from a conversation the two waiters have concerning the old man's attempted suicide. One waiter asks "Who cut him down?", to which the other waiter replies "His niece." Later in the story, the original text appears to confuse who possesses the knowledge about the suicide. The waiter who previously said "His niece", now says: "I Know. You said she cut him down." This seems to assume the knowledge about the attempted suicide has either passed from one waiter to another, or that we have incorrectly attributed the first exchange to the wrong waiters. So which waiter asked about cutting down the old man? When the disputed dialogue between the two waiters takes place, we do not know enough about them to develop an outline of character. As the story progresses, the character of the two waiters emerges through their dialogue and thoughts, as does many of Hemingway's characters. Once the character of each waiter is developed and understood, the dialogue makes more sense when the story is read again.