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.

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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.

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.

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