A Clean and Well-Lighted Place

Topics: Existentialism, Meaning of life, Philosophy of life Pages: 3 (1014 words) Published: March 27, 2013
“A Clean and Well-Lighted Place” Analysis
Does one's purpose in life diminish after there is nothing left in life to look forward to? In Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “A Clean and Well-Lighted Place,” this question is addressed in terms of the four main themes of existentialism: existence precedes essence, absurdity, anxiety or angst, and nothingness. The author does this by creating a story in which all of these themes are featured individually. Existentialism is “a philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts.” The most prominent theme of existentialism is that of nothingness. This is featured in the story through the old waiter when he comes to the conclusion that without motivation to live, one wanders in a world of nothingness. This story highlights issues like depression, isolation, aging and anguish, but are all centered on the theme of existentialism.

One of the themes of existentialism is, existence precedes essence. In other words, an independently acting and responsible conscious person is more important than the labels, and stereotypes that the individual falls under. This can be found within the first interaction in the story, between the two waiters. They are talking about the old man that is perpetually drinking his life away. The young waiter is judging the old man based on how much money he has, how old he is, and that he is deaf. The young waiter is unable to understand why he should try to kill himself, when he has money. However, the old waiter is constantly defending the old man like, “‘Not always, This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling. Even now, drunk. Look at him.’” The old waiter is focusing more on how the old man conducts himself, rather than looking at his features, and income to judge him.

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