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Ernest Hemingway's “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

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The short story by Ernest Hemingway “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is one of his great pieces of writing amongst many others. This story is a great example of the style that was so successfully developed and adopted by the Hemingway. His short stories most often do not have the plot, the story, unlike in the classic writing is built around the events and meaning of it. The emotions and feelings, and the notions that are carried by the main characters are key focus in his short stories. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is amazing story that explores the meaning and the quantity of nothingness in our lives. Not everyone can understand how haunting and dreadful the notion of nothingness in human life is.

The old man is sitting in the café every single day, if possibly drinking himself to the oblivion. The question that naturally comes to mind is what the reasoning behind this daily ritual, is he just another drunk or there is more to it.  We get the story narrated to us through the conversation of the two waiters. According to them the man has recently attempted to commit suicide, the young man has trouble understanding why while the old waiter kept silent. Young man’s argument was that the old man had plenty of money hence he had no reason to commit suicide. The youngster, due to his early years and lack of experience, does not understand that  in the situation of all consuming nothingness that haunts their client no money will buy you the way out of that situation. Where there is nothing you have to do, nothing and no one waiting for you at home, nowhere you have to be. You can’t run away and you cannot escape especially when under the cover of the night, the strength and power of the nothingness grows and softly coats and smothers you every night. So the old man is simply trying to dink himself to the oblivion. He is trying to chat and escape this feeling of nothingness. The older waiter the more experienced one, who has seen a lot of people come and go through this beautiful café, has noticed tha this man is not regular drunk by this appearance and habits. As he is incredibly neat and nice mannered, his hands do not shake from the lifelong alcohol abuse. Therefore, he is just trying to escape this cruel reality that he is stuck in just one night at a time.

The older waiter knew exactly what the old deaf man was going through in his life, as he has started experiencing it himself recently, he is well aware of the things that  keep old visitor so late in their café. He has been experiencing that daunting feeling of nothingness that consumes you and leaves you only at the dawn, when the sunlight finally brings peace of mind. The older waiter knows why old man tries to stay at the clean, well-lighted place, just like their café as opposed to the all night working dim lit and gruesome bars. He is well aware that light in the places like this, just like the sunlight, scares the depressing and frightening thoughts that come with cover of night. He admits that being old is a sad and nasty thing, however, he understands the limitless psychological weight the old customer carries, as lately every night he had been experiencing nothingness by nights.

The young waiter does not understand the pitiful and miserable situation their client is in. He is young; he has all the time in the world at the moment. He has a wife waiting for him at home, he wants to go home, the presence of that person draws him home like a magnet. The only problem for him is money, he is working hard to earn them, and it seems like there is nothing else that can be needed in life. He perceives money as the ultimate solution, as yet he knows nothing about depressing loneliness, about the feeling that prevails over you when you enter empty home. When there is nothing, nothing you care, nothing that can be done to aid this situation. He has a wife that  is there for him , and even if she would not be there, he would have no problem finding another partner for himself, as he is young and at that age it is  certainly of no problem to do. The problems of old people are not only hard to comprehend for him, but also annoy young waiter as he tries to catch up with the pace and desires of his young life.

To conclude, I would like to say that the Ernest Hemingway did a brilliant job showing his readers the scary reality of senile life is.  The insight into  the dark nothingness that offers no other escape to the victim other than drinking oneself to the oblivion, to the point where reality  is not so powerful and can be avoided. He dexterously stripped the story of the plot that would only confuse the reader and drive his attention from the main point of the story, the values of lives and the perceptions of different generations on it. The contrast between the lives and values of the people of different age are striking, how they perceive and value the life of an old person. 

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