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A Clean, Well Lighted Place Essay

1519 words - 6 pages


This story was written by Hemingway in 1933. It details an evening's interaction between two waiters, and their differing perspectives of life. Hemingway uses an old man as a patron to demonstrate the waiter's philosophies. Hemingway is also visible in the story as the old man, someone who society says should be content, but has a significant empty feeling inside. What follows is a line-by-line analysis, putting emphasis on the philosophies of the waiters.

     This story focuses on two waiters at a cafe in Madrid, and their differing outlooks upon life. Their views are shown as they talk about an old man in the cafe, and each contemplate their life.

     The old man, who may be a reflection of Hemingway's anticipated aging, enjoys drinking in the cafe late at night. This may be a reflection of Hemingway's own writing in cafes in Paris. The old man prefers drinking late at night when the atmosphere is much more settled. The waiters kept a careful eye on the old man, as he has been known to leave without paying after too many drinks.

     As the two waiters monitor the old man, they younger waiter mentions that the old man tried to kill himself in the previous week. The older waiter asks why, and the younger tells him that he had no reason
to kill himself because he had "plenty of money." The older waiter lets the conversation drop after he hears this, because this statement shows the younger
waiter's perspective.

     The older waiter seems to have empathy for the older patron, where the younger waiter has ill feelings to the customer. The older waiter seems to be more aware of a larger sense of existence where everyone plays their role, and the younger waiter seems to believe that he has to simply look out for 'number one' and really couldn't be bothered to go out of his way for the old man. The younger waiter quickly argued that the old man's justification for living should have been his money, and it is interesting to note that the younger waiter considers nothing else in his evaluation of the attempted suicide.

     As the two waiters sit at a table, a soldier walks by with a prostitute. The older waiter comments that they'll get stopped by the local guard, and the younger waiter replies "What does it matter if he gets what he's after?" Again, this shows the older waiter's awareness, and the careless attitude of the younger waiter.

     The old man signals the younger waiter over for another drink, and the waiter declines to server him because he feels that the man is getting drunk and doesn't want to get stuck waiting for him to finish. The younger waiter then comments that the old man should
have killed himself last week, and how the waiter is tired and simply wants to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

     The older waiter, empathizing...

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