A Clean, Well Lighted Place. By Ernest Hemingway

1528 words - 6 pages

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" reflect Hemingway's views on the loss of faith and hummanity in the world. He wrote this short story after experiencing the horrors of World War I. Hemingway, like a lot of other writers during his time, was forever affected by the war. His experiences left hime filled with doubt. Hemingway constructed a story to express his emotions of emptiness and loss that he felt as a result of the war. The story includes characters that serve as vessels for his own emotions. He incorporates various literary techniques throughout his short story that emulate his feelings of loneliness and loss of faith. The main characters in the story are constantly wrestling with the emptiness they feel, and they desperately search for some sort of relief. In "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," Hemingway uses symbolism, narrative technique and tone to reinforce the theme of life having no meaning and how an empty life can lead to despair.
Throughout the story, Hemingway incorporates both symbols and motifs to emphasize the notion that the characters in the story are filled with despair and are searching for relief. The most prominent symbol in the story is the cafe from which the story gets its title. The action of the story takes place in a cafe late at night. Two waiters are waiting for an old man, who frequents the cafe, to leave so that they can close it up for the night. The two waiters discuss the old man, and the younger of the two waiters is impatient for him to leave. The older waiter suspects that the old man is lonely and goes to the cafe to escape his loneliness (143-44). The older waitor can identify with the man because his life mirriors the old man's in terms of emptiness. Hemingway uses the cafe as a symbol to represent the opposite of nothingness. The older waitor describes the cafe as "clean and pleasant," and "it [the cafe] is well lighted" (144). For the older waitor and the old man, the cafe is their escape from nothingness. The cafe is vibrant and clean, which has order and clarity. Darkness and chaos are associated with nothingness. The cafe represents the polar opposite of darkness so it serves as a refuge for those who are trying to escape emptiness and despair, namely the old man and the older waiter. The older waiter contrasts the cafe with bars saying that bars are noisy, dark and "unpolished" (143). He complains that he can't sit at a bar or even "stand before a bar with dignity" (144). The noisy unclean bars do not extinguish the despair like the cafe does. Hemingway also incorporates a recurring motif of lonliness throughout the story. The old man is deaf, and his wife has died. He is visibly lonely and frequents the cafe to escape or to temporarily forget his lonliness. The older waiter never actually admits that he is lonely, but he is very similar to the old man in that he likes to sit in cafes late at night (143-44). Both characters find solace in sitting in the cafes because it provides an escaape for them....

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