Study Guide

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Genre

By Ernest Hemingway

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Hemingway is something of an uneasy modernist. While he certainly broke through a lot of conventions, and dealt with some of the themes that we often associate with the genre of Modernism (post-WWI disillusionment, alienation – you know, stuff like that), some of his novels and short stories are actually fairly conventional, especially when compared to the more experimental writings of some of his buddies, like Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. This story, however, lives up to the modernist name; it is an unconventional, super-short, psychological portrait of three characters. The inner monologue of the older waiter briefly dips into stream of consciousness mode, a technique made particularly famous by Hemingway's contemporaries James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. The story doesn't attempt to do anything we expect a short story to do – there is no real conflict, and certainly no resolution. Rather, it simply depicts a series of moments in everyday life.

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