Description, Visual and Auditory Clues, and Imagery in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, By Hemingway
Length: 504 words (1.4 double-spaced pages)
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Description, Visual and Auditory Clues, and Imagery in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
"Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the café (251)." The waiter who speaks these words, in a Clean Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway, realizes that his café is more than just a place to eat and drink. The main character of this story is an elderly, deaf man who spends every evening at the same café until it closes. Setting is used to help the reader understand the old man's loneliness and the comfort he receives from the café. Hemingway uses direct description, visual and auditory clues, and sense imagery to establish the setting and to develop this understanding.
Hemingway uses direct description at the very beginning of the story to establish the setting of the story for the reader. "It was late and everyone had left the café except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust...(249)." This conveys a sense of solitude and peace which surrounds the old man. More importantly, this description gives the reader a feeling for the loneliness which has engulfed the old man. The use of shadows and light, along with solitude, gives the sense of loneliness.
The visual and auditory clues the author uses are necessary in understanding why the old man continues to return to the café each night. "Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It is the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music (251)." It is important that the café be well-lighted to counteract the old man's dark and lonely life. In addition, music would only be a distraction from his thoughts and a disruption of the solitude which quiet brings.
Finally, through Hemingway's use of sense imagery, the reader is able to understand why the old man visits the café at night. "...the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference (249)." Evening brings a sense of serenity to the old man. The day time distractions, even for a deaf man, are replaced by evening solitude.
This allows the old man to withdraw and reflect on the loneliness of his life.
It is clear that Hemingway's use of direct description, visual and auditory clues, and sense imagery to establish setting help the reader to understand the old man's loneliness and the comfort he receives from the café. The old man is first seen as very lonely and in search of solitude and quiet. The setting, and the use of several literary mechanisms, however, further develop this old man and enable the reader to not only "see" his loneliness but "feel" and understand it.