Discuss the relationship between character and theme in “A Clean, Well-lighted Place” B-A9-0415-1
What is the most fearful emotion? That is emotionless. What is the most troubled thing? That is nothing. What will you feel after experiencing so much crazy murder and facing unreasonable death? In Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-lighted Place”, he shows us the loneliness, isolation, meaningless, death and futility of modern life those poor survivors of the world war one are facing through the description on the three main characters. Using his unique writing skills, Hemingway describes the character with short, plain and clean language, giving us a deep impression. Setting is one of the most important elements in “A clean, well-lighted place”. “A clean, well-lighted place” is a simple story happened mainly in a café after world war one. There are overall three main settings in the story—the café which is described as “clean” and “well—lighted”, the bar and the old waiter’s room. Other settings like the street indicate us the background the story happened.
Café is the most representative and meaningful place described in the story. The story begins with a description of the place where the old man is sitting in the café—“in the shadow the leaves of tree made against the electric light” “In the daytime the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference.” (Hemingway, A Clean, Well-lighted Place). It is a place formed by the shadow of leaves—the natural material but still not isolated from the artificial world, thus, the shadow is made against the electric light. It shows to us that light is unstable so it will disappear. From what the old waiter says, we can also know that the café is “a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves” (Hemingway, A Clean, Well-lighted Place). Hemingway creates a harmonious atmosphere and peaceful environment here. Light is a symbol of company, warmth and comfort. All those clean light and the sound of the leaves make those old men feel less lonely, less isolated and feel comfortable in heart. It is such a peaceful, warm, and has clean light that will give us comfort but cannot last for a long time. It can make a great contract between the café and the bar which is described in the passage in another way—“a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine” “The light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished” “It was 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. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours.” (Hemingway, A Clean, Well-lighted Place). The bar is very noisy full of meaningless, crazy music and is not as clean as a café. A café is a safe place away from chaos and confusion. There is also light in a bar but it can only make us confused and feel empty instead of warm and comfort. The old waiter’s room is another place which the old waiter is most unwilling to stay in. It is dark, even without light. Darkness, which can be representative for loneliness and sadness, is always longer and easy to get from old waiter’s perspective. Hemingway infers here that nice light is temporary and unstable but thick darkness is always there, in those empty and lonely hearts.
Another place that can be contracted with the clean, well—lighted café is the disordered, dirty and dangerous street. All the things happen in the street is “a girl and a soldier went by in the street. The street light shone on the brass number on his collar. The girl wore no head covering and hurried beside him.” (Hemingway, A Clean, Well-lighted Place). There are no children, no families, no laugher and no happy things. There are only soldier and...
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