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A Clean, Well Lighted Place By Ernest Hemingway

1088 words - 5 pages

In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” Hemingway describes an old, deaf man sitting in a café one evening as seen through the eyes of two waiters at the restaurant. While the two waiters wait for the old man to leave so they can close the café, they gossip about the old man’s life. The old man is depressed. His wife has died and he recently attempted to commit suicide.
The younger waiter has no sympathy for the old man. The younger waiter believes the old man’s life is worth nothing. The younger waiter fears becoming like the old man. The younger waiter suggests to the older waiter that the old man would have been better off if he had succeeded in killing ...view middle of the document...

The cleanliness of the café appeals to the old man. He is a clean drinker, never spilling his liquor. When the old man leaves the café, he carries himself with dignity (Hemingway).
The younger waiter does not see any dignity in the old man. The younger waiter only sees the nothing that the old man’s life has become. The younger waiter fears succumbing to nothingness the way the old man has. The younger waiter believes he has everything, and he fears losing it. The younger waiter doesn’t want to get old. He doesn’t want to lose his wife. He doesn’t want to hang out in cafés to keep from being alone. The younger waiter believes his youth, his confidence, his wife, and his material possessions protect him from the nothingness of life. To the young waiter, these things are his clean, well-lighted place. The younger waiter is in denial about the possibility of nothingness in his life. When the older waiter jokes that the younger waiter might find something unpleasant if the younger waiter arrives home early, the younger waiter’s fear makes him misinterpret the joke as an insult (Hemingway). The older waiter understands the old man. The older waiter can empathize with the old man. The older waiter can see more clearly the nothing his own life is becoming. The older waiter recognizes the nothingness in his life, but he isn’t ready to give into the nothingness. After work the older waiter goes to a bar for a drink because he isn’t ready to go home to his empty room. The older waiter, like the old man, finds solace in a clean, orderly place with good lighting. While the bar he frequents is not as pleasant to him as the café, it distracts him from the nothingness, the “nada.” The older waiter sees the “nada” in everything. He accepts that the nothingness is there. The older waiter just refuses to give into the nothingness (Hemingway). The word “nada” is repeated many times by the older waiter as he leaves...

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