A Clean Well Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway is a cryptic short story about a deaf man in a bar late at night with the waiter getting frustrated with him because he wishes to go home. The dialogue slowly turns to two waiters who inject a symbolic exchange. This entire piece of full of symbology and is in my opinion a story up the the interpretation of each individual reader.
“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.” In this sequence we see the first comparison made between light and darkness, and we see the daytime being described as dusty and the in the night the dew eliminated the dust. This state of moistness or lubrication perhaps represents a state of mental lubrication, free from the dullness of the day. It’s also interesting that a deaf man would be able to tell the difference between the sounds of the day and sounds of the night. In my opinion this means that at night when it’s expected to be desolate the man feels more at home than he does in the daytime when there is expected to be commotion.
“"Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said. "Why?" "He was in despair." "What about?" "Nothing." "How do you know it was nothing?" "He has plenty of money."” This is a humorous dialogue about the condition of money vs happiness. The man is described as being in despair, but yet they know now what he has to be despaired about if he has means to provide him happiness. However they do not see the true ironic sadness of the situation. A old man is sitting alone in a cafe at night downing shots of brandy. It is obvious to the reader that the old man does not have a very pleasant life.
“They sat together at a table that was close against the wall near the door of the café and looked at the terrace where the tables were all empty except where the old man sat in the shadow of the leaves of the tree that moved slightly in the wind. 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.” This is the second time the “shadow of the leaves of the tree” is mentioned, this is demonstrative by the author that this is important and essential symbology to understand. Obviously the leaves can produce no real shadow since it’s night, however since it is under an electric light the leaves produce a false shadow from a false light. The legal definition of false light is a “portrayal that is highly offense to a reasonable person” but not so much so that it’s defamation. This allows the old man sitting there to perhaps portray himself as offensive to the waiter, as we will see in a later exchange, but not so much so that he defames himself. The man is also able to view from the terrace the soldier and the women passing by. This might be the man looking down and reminiscing on memories of old.
Another exchange that struck me was between the two waits discussing the events of the attempted suicide of the man. “"He's drunk now," he said. "He's drunk every night."
"What did he want to kill himself for?" "How should I know." "How did he do it?"
"He hung himself with a rope." "Who cut him down?" "His niece." "Why did they do it?" "Fear for his soul." "How much money has he got?" "He's got plenty." This exchange shows the audience the severity of this mans drinking, and drinking almost goes without symbology itself as an expression of relieving anything from stress, to recreation, to wallowing in pity. They again fail to recognize the plight and sorrow this man has, they suffer from a delusion that this man's great wealth brings him joy and happiness, however again we can tell that it doesn’t. The waiter's also state that the man’s niece who came and saved him did so out of fear for his soul, not fear for his life, but fear for his soul. To me this is indicative...
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