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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Analysis

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Analysis

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  • October 1999
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Dark Against Light in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" The main character in "A Clean, Well- Lighted Place," written by Ernest Hemingway, is the old man. The old man, who remains nameless throughout the short story, comes to the café for the light it provides him against the dark night. He stays late into the night, and sits "In the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light." The old man is deaf and finds comfort in the "difference" he feels inside the quiet café. The old man struggles with old age and the feeling of nothingness which is representative of the darkness outside of the café. The well-lit café represents order and cleanliness. Outside in the dark, a young soldier and a girl hurry along the streets. Apparently, the couple intend to go off alone. They symbolize the excitement that can go on in the night between two people. The old man is around eighty years old, and does not have a wife. He doesn't experience this type of relationship in the dark. Rather, he finds company in the clean, well-lighted café. Although the only other two people in the café at the late hour are the two waiters, the old man finds it content. The two waiters comment that although he is "A good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying." The younger of the two waiters wants to go home. He has a wife and claims he never gets "into bed before three o'clock." He treats the deaf old man as if he were dumb. He speaks to him "with that omission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners." The young waiter knows that the old man tried to commit suicide last week, but feels no remorse for him. He is too preoccupied with closing the café to get home. It is not important to the young waiter that the old man has a clean place to stay. Unlike the old man, the young waiter says he has...