Symbolism In A Clean-Well Lighted Place By Ernest Hemingway

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A Clean-Well Lighted Place is a short story written by Ernest Hemmingway and published in Winner Take Nothing in 1933. The story is about a deaf old man that comes to the café to drink, and does not want to leave. A young and old waiter converse back and forth on speculations and thoughts about the old man. The young waiter seems to be more ignorant and stereotypical towards the old man, while the old waiter was more caring and sympathetic towards him. At the end of the story it turns out that the old waiter was very relatable to the old man. The plot of the story seems simple at first, but after re-reading and analyzing it, it has an intricate underlying. The theme of A Clean-Well Lighted Place is about recognizing the nothingness of life …show more content…
The story’s setting took place at a Café in Spain. The old deaf man would come to the café because “it was quiet and he felt the difference.” This was symbolic for the underlying theme of nothingness. Although the deaf old man was alone at the café, it gave him a sense of purpose and made it feel like he had some interaction in his lonely life. Later in the story it is unveiled that the old man does not have a wife anymore, and had try to “[hang] himself with a rope” but his niece saw and cut him down. This definitely shows that the old man is dealing with depression from loneliness and despair learning that his life’s meaning is nothingness. That is why he goes to the café, and does not leave, because it gives him a sense of being to life. Critic Michael Adams writes: “ The cafe is a place where those without the innocence of youth, the illusions of belief, can pass the time with dignity. It is a refuge from meaninglessness — but only a refuge, not an escape.”(Adams) Moreover, as mentioned previously, with the author’s use of the word ‘nada’, is certainly very symbolic to the theme. In the old waiter’s ‘prayer’ he says nada 21 times. This symbolizes that prayer is nothing to him, and life as he knows it is nothing as …show more content…
In the story there were three main characters, the deaf old man who was drinking at the café, the young waiter, and the old waiter. It is evident that the young waiter was in annoyance and disgust with the deaf old man: "You should have killed yourself last week” the young waiter had said as he rudely over-filled the man’s cup with brandy. The young waiter goes on to argue with the old waiter that the man is a pathetic drunk. The old waiter picks up for the old man with sympathetic remarks such as: “‘He had a wife once too”, and “Not always. This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling. Even now, drunk. Look at him." This clearly shows that the old waiter understands the old man, while the young man is ignorant and is not able to fathom the old man’s situation. This situation of characters with different opinions definitely adds some perspective to the story – one man pities the person while another sympathizes with them. Towards the end of the story, it is revealed that the old waiter also deals with loneliness and fear from nothingness. He explained: “I am of those who like to stay late at the café.” This shows that the old man and old waiter were in the same situation – they both like sitting in the café because it brought purpose to their life of nothingness. It was very important for author Hemmingway to create this

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