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Differing Perspectives of Life in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, By Hemingway

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Differing Perspectives of Life in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place


"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" was written by Hemingway in 1933.  It details an evening's interaction between two waiters, and their differing perspectives of life.  Hemingway uses an old man as a patron to demonstrate the waiter's philosophies. Hemingway is also visible in the story as the old man, someone who society says should be content, but has a significant empty feeling inside. This essay will present a line-by-line analysis, with emphasis on the philosophies of the waiters.

            This story focuses on two waiters at a cafe in Madrid, and their differing outlooks upon life.  Their views are shown as they talk about an old man in the cafe, and each contemplate their life.    The old man, who may be a reflection of Hemingway's anticipated aging, enjoys drinking in the cafe late at night.  This may be a reflection of Hemingway's own writing in cafes in Paris.   The old man prefers drinking late at night when the atmosphere is much more settled.   The waiters kept a careful eye on the old man, as he has been known to leave without paying after too many drinks. 

            As the two waiters monitor the old man, they younger waiter mentions that the old man tried to kill himself in the previous week. The older waiter asks why, and the younger tells him that he had no reason to kill himself because he had "plenty of money."  The older waiter lets the conversation drop after he hears this, because this statement shows the younger waiter's perspective. The older waiter seems to have empathy for the older patron, where the younger waiter has ill feelings to the customer.  The older waiter seems to be more aware of a larger sense of existence where ev...


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...t in a matter of time, he could be ( is? ) a customer in the cafe.  He gets as much out of working as he would out of drinking. He is afraid of the dark, afraid of the nothing, afraid of what may happen to him in time to come, and how he many be treated.  

            I think that it is also possible to see Hemingway in this story as the cafe's old patron.  The old man is someone that has become a success by society's standards, but not by his own.  The old man is rich, just as Hemingway was famous, but neither of the two were ever completely satisfied.  Hemingway is represented as someone always on safari, or some other glamorous pastime, perhaps trying just to keep busy, to stay away from the nada.

Works Cited:

Hemingway, Ernest. "A Clean, Well Lighted Place." Literature for
Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et.al. New York: HarperCollins 1996.


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