3 January 2013
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
On an average day, 84 people die from suicide and an estimated 1,900 adults attempt suicide in America. These suicides essentially rose from stress built up over a period of time. In order to avoid that built up of stress, people needed an escape. “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway is a short story where two waiters in a Spanish café are waiting one night for their last customer, an old deaf man, to leave. As they wait, they talk about the old man's recent suicide attempt. The younger waiter is impatient to leave and tells the deaf old man he wishes the old man’s suicide attempt had been successful. The younger waiter has a wife waiting in bed for him and is unsympathetic when the older waiter says that the old man once had a wife. Hemingway's omniscient third person narration allows readers to see what's happening both inside and outside of the character's minds. Hemingway gives out hints of what's happening with the younger waiter and the old deaf man which allows the readers to understand how the author demonstrates the universal message that “Everyone desires a clean well-lighted place of their own to fend off the darkness”. Hemingway shapes the short story in order to allow the readers to conceive that everyone covets different things and how age and experience affect their values.
In the short story, the older waiter explains the difference between a bar and a café, one is cleaner than the other, which is why “The old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference” (379) where in a bar, the old deaf man would not feel the difference. The Spanish café is the clean well-lighted place in the story and the old deaf man is in his lighted place trying to escape from his problems. Eventually the old man will have to leave his lighted place and go back into the reality of problems he has waiting for him. “This...
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Benson, Jackson J. “Hemingway.” Short Story Criticism. Vol. 1. Farnington Hills, MI: Gale
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Hemingway, Ernest. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” The Complete Short Stories of Ernest
Hemingway. New York: Scribner, 2003. 379-83. Print.
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