Visual art, media, and literature all exhibit different themes that are prevalent in society. Both Ernest Hemingway’s short story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place and Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks” convey a distinct, similar feeling to the audience. In Hemingway’s short story, a melancholic feeling is evoked through the isolation of an elderly man who drinks silently at a café late at night. Hopper’s painting portrays a similar emotion of solitude, capturing a strange, dismal tranquility amongst three people whom similarly are drinking at bar, well into the night. The striking contrast between light and dark, night and day, is the recurring theme of both the painting and the short story. The warmth that arrives from the light represents hope, and the enveloping feel of comfort. However, there is solitude that resides amongst the subjects, represented by the darkness of the night. Both Hopper’s painting and Hemingway’s short story illustrate notions of existentialism and alienation within society.
In A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, the setting takes place in a quiet, brightly lit café, late into the night. Everyone has left, except for a deaf old man who sits outside on the terrace, drinking several glasses of brandy. The only two waiters left, both old and young, reflect on the old man’s dismal past. The old man is rich, but he attempted to commit suicide, and failed to hang himself. When he decides to leave, he walks unsteadily yet he manages to walk with dignity. It is the conversation between the two waiters left that define Hemingway’s theme of the short story. The younger waiter constantly complains of the time of night, eagerly awaiting the old man’s departure so he can go home to his wife. He is unable to comprehend the sensitivity of the old man, and simply does not understand why he cannot simply buy a bottle of brandy and drink at home. It is the older waiter who tries to explain the complexity of the situation, and feels compassion for the deaf old...
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