Published in 1926, Ernest Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place introduces three unnamed characters whose lives intertwined one early morning in a Spanish café. The young waiter is irritated by the fact that the old deaf man does not want to go home and keeps on ordering for more drinks which the young waiter refuses to give.1 He insults the old customer knowing he cannot hear a single word he says. He is angry because he wants to go home and be with his wife. There is life for him outside his job the café.
On the other hand, the old waiter sympathizes with the old deaf man. He realizes that the old man is not “nasty” but lonely. He concludes that his loneliness must be the reason why he tried to end his life the week before while the young waiter is clueless why he wanted to do such a terrible thing given that he has plenty of money.
Closing the café, the waiters begin a conversation about being lonely, feeling no fear despite the odd hours they have to get home. The young waiter exclaims that he and the old waiter are the same in being confident. But the man disagrees: "No. I have never had confidence and I am not young (...) I am of those who like to stay late at the café," (...) "With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night."
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However, the you waiter does not seem to understand the idea of having a clean, well- lighted place, a place where old people do not have to feel lonely. The young waiter heads home while the old one chooses to stay in case some fellow needs a lighted café for the night. A clean, well-lighted place, instead of a dark, unclean bar or a bodega which may only intensifies loneliness.
In A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Ernest Hemingway portrays the difference between the young and the old waiter on drinking.2 For the young waiter, it is better for the old deaf man to buy a bottle and drink it alone in his house rather than going to a public place and get drunk. But the old waiter approves of drinking in public than having a single glass in private. In my opinion, drinking is better or more fun when done in the company of other people.
I can relate with the old waiter. I am not used to drinking alone in private even though I have problems. Drinking alone exacerbates the feeling of loneliness. Look at what happened to the old customer. He was probably drunk and alone in his house when he tried to commit suicide. Drinking in a public café assures his family that he will not attempt to kill himself in front of other people. In public, you can talk to someone or meet someone probably on the same boat, suffering the same loneliness. You can start making friends and not feel the reason why you are there drinking in the first place.
As for myself, I am not comfortable drinking alone whatever my mood is. However, I think the young waiter is right when he says that the old customer has no reason to kill himself given that he is rich. I am not saying that rich people has no problems because probably they have worse problems than common people have. All I am saying is that nothing can justify suicide. Every existence has its meaning and you just have to find it. In every stage of our lives, a new purpose unfolds and it is up to us to do something about it and make our lives more productive. Another way to analyze the difference between the two waiters is how they view life.3 In this matter, I can relate with the young waiter.
on Analysis of characters of a clean, well- lighted place
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Characters. The old waiter, the story’s protagonist, is the older of two waiters at a clean, well-lighted café. Young Waiter. The young waiter, the antagonist of the story, is a server in the café with the old waiter.
‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’ is like many of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, in that the action – what little ‘action’ there is – doesn’t generate the meaning of the story. Instead, it’s through the conversation between the two waiters, and then the older waiter’s ruminations as he leaves the café, that the meaning emerges.
Old age is one such stage of human life which is supposed to harbor loneliness and despair. The feeling of despair experienced by old people is portrayed in the short story “A Clean Well-lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway. The setting in the story is a clean well-lighted cafe where a deaf old man is having his drinks.
Published in 1926, Ernest Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place introduces three unnamed characters whose lives intertwined one early morning in a Spanish café.
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