Michael R. Gibson
Professor Michael Duncan
A Story About Finding One-Self: Existentialism in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place “Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.” - Jean-Paul Sartre A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway is a story about men in the philosophy of existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophy that is centered upon the human existence, it focuses on individuals finding a reason for living within themselves (Oxford Dictionary). Throughout life, humans often question their own existence. The characters in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place are looking for a truth in themselves, a truth that they must be able to live for, this truth is based on the premise that nothing is preordained and that there is no fate. The soldier in the story is the first example of existentialism. The soldier does not believe in a higher power and he doesn’t recognize the existence of nothingness. What he does know is that there is something missing, something in his life to feel good about. The absence of this good feeling is why he joined the service. He felt it would give him something to believe in, a purpose in life, living to fight and die for his country. Although something is still missing, the soldier has not found a truth for himself, a truth worth living for. The soldier is left with the feeling of nothingness, a feeling that he attempts to discard of though the act of sexual gratification. The younger waiter recognizes what the soldier is after, “What does it matter if he gets what he’s after?”(Hemingway 165). This experience in the end will only leave the soldier feeling more unhappy and empty inside. The young waiter is the second example of existentialism. He is aware of the nothingness of an existential life. He sees it in the soldier as well as the old man. He realizes the soldier will still feel the same or even worse after it is over. However, he does not quite know how to deal with it. The young waiter tries to use his...
Cited: "Definition of Existentialism in English" Existentialism: Definition of Existentialism in Oxford
Dictionary (American English) (US). N.p., 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2014
Hemingway, Ernest. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th Compact ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2013. 165-68. Print.
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