Existentialism In Ernest Hemingway's A Clean Well-Lighted Place

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Existentialism, a noun made up of five syllables is one of the most daunting words in the English language. The idea that we “humans” have no meaning in life until we find a way to make our lives mean something, for some of us that time never comes. Ernest Hemingway wrote many short stories that have the underlying message of existentialism and that includes his story “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” which follows the late night events within a cafe. Through this everlasting night we see three phases of aging men, each facing or having the chance to face a existential crisis. However they hold onto something that keeps them grounded, but the object are all external. Two waiters, one younger and one older and old man, each in different parts of …show more content…
He is the one to start the conversation about the older man who sits idly by, getting more drunk as time passes, attempted suicide. The older waiter claims it was over “nothing” and the younger waiter believes that the older is using it in its everyday meaning when he is actually using it in a much broader sense. The nothingness is what the older waiter is referring to, the idea that the world has nothing to offer him. He has spent time thinking about it, and has had more time compared to the younger waiter to learn about how the world around him runs. This is why the older waiter takes the time to understand the old deaf man and show a little sympathy for him. The older waiter is also known as the “unhurried” water, he is able to see the importance behind the cafe for people like the old man. The older waiter is always “reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the cafe”, and as long as there is a need for the cafe there is a need for him. Thus giving purpose to his everyday …show more content…
From the moment he brushed off his coworkers words about the older man being in despair to the comment he replies with claiming “he has plenty of money”, which to the younger man must equal happiness. Throughout the short story the younger waiter mistakes external objects as something that can fulfill him. For example the women he had waiting for him at home was someone who depends on him, someone who his life surrounds. The younger waiter is even identified as “the waiter with a wife”(276), it is apart of him, one of his traits, something that we can use describe him. The fact that the younger waiter is surrounded with replaceable happiness proves that he is fragile to the nothingness around him. The minute the older waiter questions the foundation of his marriage he automatically becomes more open and kindhearted. His attitude changed rather abruptly going from an angry man, to one who “did not wish to be unjust” (276). It is as if he was able to catch a glimpse of the void he would feel had he lost the one thing that saved him from

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