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Three Generations In One: A Clean Well Lighted Place

1592 words - 7 pages

At first glance “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway is an unemotional, unfinished and simplistic narration of two waiters and an old man. However, when readers dig a little deeper for insight, they can truly see how meaningful this story actually is as Hemingway captures the source and essence of nihilistic thought, in a time of moral and religious confusion after the World War I. The post World War thinking of Hemingway and the Lost Generation in Paris was expressed and represented through his ideas, which were influenced by the ordeals of war. Due to Hemingway’s disturbing and unsettling experiences while serving in the military, he portrays the idea that all humans await an inevitable fate of eternal nothingness and everything that we value is worthless. He states that all humans will die alone and will be “in despair” about “nothing” (Hemingway 494), also that people will look for a “calm and pleasant café” (Hemingway 496) to escape from his misery. Hemingway goes on to say “[Life is] all a nothing, and a man [is] nothing too” (Hemingway, 496), undoubtedly abolishing any existence of a higher being. After observing the actions of individuals in the past three decades, Hemingway attempts to elaborate in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” that life is about gradual despair and not continual enlightenment and that we all will eventually fade into “nada” (Hemingway 497).
Hemingway shows weltschmerz, which is a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state (Merriam-Webster Dictionary), in his writing due to his experiences while serving in the army. The vast majority of his outstanding war work is composed of the aftermath as well as what occurs to a soldiers soul as a consequence. After World War I, Hemingway kept a fragment of shrapnel among many other small charms from the war in a small change purse (Putnam 2006). He demonstrated through his work a profound interest in war, and the effect it has on people as his experiences were very close to his heart. Hemingway experienced the war firsthand and he wrote numerous dispatches from different frontlines, which eventually became settings for many of his most memorable stories. Ernest Hemingway volunteered to serve in Italy as an emergency ambulance driver with the American Red Cross during the First World War, but was wounded by Austrian mortar fire while running a mobile canteen. Albeit injured, Hemingway assisted an Italian soldier to safety while sustaining additional injuries while performing this life-saving act (Putnam, 2006). Ernest Hemingway returned to his home in Oak Park, Illinois a changed man at war’s end. His outlook was broadened by his different experiences of travel, love and combat. He offered insight into why he changed his outlook on life in Men at War (1955):
"When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you . . . Then when you are badly wounded the...

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