"A Clean, Well Lighted Place"
Although tone is an extremely complicated issue to analyze, it is one of the most elementary literary elements. Like a tone of voice, the tone of a story may communicate joy, anger, love, sorrow, and contempt. It shows the feelings of the author, so greatly that we can sense them. The tone adds to the overall feeling, and effectiveness portrayed in any literary work. Those feelings may be similar to the feelings expressed by the narrator of the story, but sometimes they may be dissimilar, even sharply opposed. The characters in a story may be regarded even as sad, but we sense that the author regards it as funny, as in Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well Lighted Place", where Hemingway purposively "sets up the aura" of an apathetic tone; using diction, imagery, and a third person point of view, by not directly confronting any emotions (Edel 270).
The indifferent use of diction in "A Clean, Well Lighted Place" is one of the most important additions to the apathetic tone. In the beginning of the story, two waiters are speaking of an old man's recently attempted suicide, and when one of them was asked why the man tried to end his life, he replied that the man "was in despair" about "nothing" (Hemingway 288). These men are discussing suicide, a very serious subject, with very little reverence to magnitude of what could happen to the man. They are discussing the suicide of a man on the same level as two friends would discuss a football game, or the weather, this lack of sympathy towards the man gives one a feeling that nothing really matters. This is a great example of Hemmingway's nature to discuss emotion only indirectly. Later in the story, the diction also shows a clear feeling of apathy, when one of the waiters, on his way out, monotonously recites the Lord's Prayer with the word nada replacing any word with meaning. He begins by saying, "Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name"(Hemmingway 291). The use of the word nada,...
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