A Clean and Well-Lighted Place is a story about a lonely, but dignified older gentleman who, basically, has insomnia and can't sleep. He is not like other men who go to bodegas and bars. He goes to escape the darkness and to have a drink. During this essay I’ve chosen to focus on themes and symbols.
It’s clear that Hemingway suggest that life has no bigger and it’s every man for him self. Man is just an insignificant speck in a great pile of nothingness. The older waiter makes this idea very clear when he says:
“What did he fear? It was not fear or dread, It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order”
The quotation appears near the end of the story. It explains the nature of what afflicts the older waiter, and all people who stays in café late at night. The affliction isn’t fear or dread, but it isn’t something clear, concrete, or easily described. Hemingway fills this passage with the vague pronouns it and that, never clarifying exactly what it and that refer to. We learn only that the affliction is “a nothing.” The older waiter repeats “nothing” over and over again, emphasizing the idea. Then when the old waiter substitutes the Spanish word nada (nothing) into the prayer, he indicates that religion is also just nothingness. Instead of saying the actual words, “Our Father who art in heaven,” the older waiter says, “Our nada who art in nada”—effectively wiping out both God and the idea of heaven in one breath.
The old man and the old waiter struggles with finding a way to deal with despair. The old have tried to stave off despair in several unsuccessful ways. He has money, but doesn’t fix it. He has tried to commit suicide in a desperate attempt to kill the despair for good. So he deals with it by sitting in a clean well-lit café for hours. Loneliness pervades the story and suggests that everyone...