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Essay on Yearning for Peace in Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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Yearning for Peace in Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place     

 
  While Hemingway's short story "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is usually interpreted as an intensely poetic description of despair, it can with equal validity be seen instead as mankind's never ending yearning to find spiritual peace. Hemingway's short story displayed this emotional journey in many different ways. First, the title itself is a symbol for man's desire to find a state of tranquillity, safety, and comfort. Hemingway also showed this in the story's setting, which was used as a symbol for a sense of order, for it was late, the cafe was empty, and the men there were at ease. Finally, Hemingway showed this desire in the contrasting actions between the young and the old to show the effects that time plays in man's search for peace.

 

An added appreciation for this short story, however, can be gained through some background concerning its origins and its relationship to the author's preoccupations.  Hemingway was married four times, won the Nobel Prize in 1954, and in 1960, when he became ill, killed himself following in his father's footsteps. Hemingway had to deal with despair, depression, and desperation for most of his life, and these feelings could be felt in most of his writings.

 

One of the major elements in defining man's true desire for peace in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is the central role that is played by despair. Despair is commonly defined as a sense of hopelessness, and it is displayed in the actions of the older waiter, and in the behavior of the deaf man. The older waiter makes an astonishing revelation or epiphany with regards to the idea of despair, when he makes the statement that "I am of those who like to ...


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..., because the Lord's prayer is meant to give one hope, purpose, and a sense that everything is not all in vain. But by removing words, and replacing them with others the waiter was reaffirming his feelings of hopelessness.

 

One of the biggest examples of understatement that Hemingway used is when the waiter said, "After all ... it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it" (383). Here Hemingway was referring to fear. Man has an inner fear or a feeling of anxiety that he may never find the peace that he is searching for. Many of us wander through life searching, longing, and seeking for a place or state of being where we will feel comfortable. Many of us long for a safe haven or "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place."

 

Works Cited 

Hemingway, Ernest. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Scribners, 1966.

 


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