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Twain’s and Hemingway’s Short Stories Comparison

A short story is an impactful and fundamental literature genre, as it utilizes essential stylistic qualities to convey a message. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is a short story by Ernest Hemingway about a late night at a cafe where an old man is drinking. The plot centers around the discussion of two waiters regarding the old man’s mental condition and recent suicide attempt (Hemingway 5). “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is a short story about the narrator listening to the news about a notorious gambler in a California gold panning town (Allen et al. 684). Comparing the two stories reveals that both are centered around dialogue and contain realism and minimalism elements.

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Both authors employ the use of dialogues as a significant part of their narrative. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” presents a story of a deaf old man who enjoys spending time in a café. Hemingway allows readers to learn more about the protagonist through the dialogue between two waiters (Fatimah 36). Thus, the audience’s primary source of information is the conversation between the two men, playing an essential part in the story’s structure. Moreover, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” uses dialogue as a tool to show the customs of the American South and Southwest (Tandt 49). For example, the main character Simon Willer states, “There couldn’t be no solit’ry thing mentioned but that feller’d offer to bet on it and take ary side you please” (Allen et al. 686). Twain skillfully reproduces the accents and dialects of the areas where he grew up through conversations in the story. Thus, the authors utilize dialogue as a useful tool within their writings.

Furthermore, the short stories of both authors are following the patterns of realism in literature. Realist writings attempt to depict the reality of life, which is the opposite of imaginative literature. The conditions presented in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” primarily through the portrayal of the characters and the setting, are the authentic representations of the social roles and positions during Hemingway’s time. Moreover, the cafe in this story is a physical barrier to the characters’ hopelessness; thus, abstract emotions can be tamed in a realistic setting (Fatimah 41). Similarly, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” depicts the realities of life in a gold panning town, where the poor are attempting to improve their quality of life (Tandt 49). Overall, both stories are moving away from the traditions of romance and imaginative literature to a realistic portrayal of individuals in their lifetime.

Lastly, the two stories contain minimalism’s hallmarks in their concise descriptions and heavy use of context clues. Minimalism leaves much of the characters’ setting and inner motivations hidden in an evasive account (Hussein 90). This is visible in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” which never changes location and the entire plot is communicated through the dialogue of two waiters. The reader can infer much of the characters’ personal feelings through their tone and attitudes towards the old man at the cafe (Hussein 91). For example, in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” the language is short and abrupt ““You’ll be drunk,” the waiter said. The old man looked at him. The waiter went away” (Hemingway 149). Likewise, in “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” the reader can infer much about the few characters through their regional dialects and attitudes towards the stories they tell. Furthermore, Mark Twain leaves the description of the setting up to the reader’s interpretation, only mentioning the gold-panning camp’s name for context. Overall, both stories are similar in their use of minimalism, as they do not use the description of characters and motivations as their primary tool.

In conclusion, both short stories contain narrative and literary elements representative of similar stylistic choices. Throughout the process of contrasting the stories, the writings revealed numerous analogous features in the authors’ way of communicating ideas to the readers. Despite minor differences, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” have many comparable qualities in their use of dialogues, minimalism, and realism.

Works Cited

Allen, Janet, et al. McDougal Littell Literature: American Literature. McDougal Littell, 2008.

Fatimah, Eva. “Realism and the Symbol of Cafe in Ernest Hemingway’s A Well Lighted Place.” Metaphor, vol. 3, no. 1, 2020, pp. 31-42. Web.

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Hemingway, Ernest. A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. Scriptor Press, 2003.

Hussein, Ghufran. “The Iceberg Theory: Hemingway’s Journalistic Technique.” Explorations of Identity and Communication, edited by Carmen Popescu, Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitară Clujeană, 2018, pp. 85-92.

Tandt, Christophe. “Realism and Naturalism in United States Fiction, 1865-1918.” American Literary Realism, Université libre de Bruxelles, n.d., pp. 1-194. Course Notes. Web.

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