“A Clean Well-Lighted Place”, a short story written by Ernest Hemingway first
appeared in a collection of short stories titled, Winner Take Nothing. Soon after the collection of stories had been published in 1933, “A Clean Well-Lighted Place quickly became one of Hemingway’s most eulogized short stories. Through his excellent use of character development, Hemingway provides the reader with a lively portrayal of theme, plot, and symbolism throughout the entire piece.
We are taken through a journey as we learn of an Old man who sits at a cafe alone at night. The Old man is deaf, and had recently tried to commit suicide although he is a pleasant customer; the two waiters must watch him to ensure that he doesn’t get too drunk, because he will leave without paying. As the two waiters in the cafe play close attention to the Old man the Younger waiter is clearly upset because the Old man will most likely be staying all night, and he is anxious to go home and see his wife. The Younger waiter wonders why it is that the Old man tried to kill himself and says to the deaf Old man that he should have killed himself last week, but the Old man simply asks for more brandy. After going back to the table where the two waiters had been sitting together, he asks the Older waiter why the Old man tried to kill himself. However, the Older waiter was not certain and replied by stating that it was because of despair and that he tried to hang himself and was found and cut down by his niece.
Once the Old man asked for another glass of brandy the Younger waiter insists that they are closed, the Older waiter asked him why he did not let the Old man stay and have another drink. He replies by explaining yet again that he would like to go home because h…
…be able to understand that the idea that “nothing” leads to “despair” because he isn’t lonely and old he is young and has a wife. Hemingway also seems to focus on the feeling of nothingness, not nothingness itself. The Old man found refuge in the clean well-lighted cafe, as an escape from his thoughts and knowledge that there is nothing more than human life, and the thoughts of there being no God and no Heaven. Unlike the Older waiter who found himself late at night, in the dirty uncleaned bar without the dignity that the Old man had. He depicts the idea that he will not be able to sleep to his audience by stating he has insomnia however, in reality we know that it is because he is afraid of nothingness, of darkness and of being alone, unlike the Old man who found refuge from these feelings in the …”shadow of the leaves of the tree made against the electric light.”