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Tiggy

In: English and Literature

Submitted By lshadden5182
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"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"
Two waiters in a café in Spain keep watch on their last customer of the evening, an old and wealthy man who is a regular at the café and drinks to excess. They discuss the fact that he tried to commit suicide the week before, but that it could not have been over anything important because he had plenty of money.
The old man asks for another brandy and one of the waiters brings it to him. The two waiters discuss their customer further, saying his niece found him hanging himself and cut him down to save his soul, and that without a wife he must be lonely.
One of the waiters is younger than his colleague is, and expresses impatience to close up the café and get home to his wife. The other one, a middle-aged man, defends the old man, saying that he stays so late at the café every night because he has no one to go home to.
Finally, the young waiter refuses the old man’s order for another drink, and the man pays and leaves. The two waiters close up the café and the middle-aged one again rebukes the other, saying he should have let the old man stay. The middle-aged waiter says he understands the old man’s reluctance to leave, and that he is always hesitant to lock up because someone may “need” the cafe because it is clean, well lighted, and overshadowed by the leaves of trees. The young waiter boasts that he has everything: youth, confidence, and a job. The middle-aged waiter says he and his colleague are indeed different, and that he himself lacks everything but work.
The two waiters part and the younger one goes home. The middle-aged waiter goes to a bar and begins a string of introspective musings. He reveals that he is reluctant to close up the café each night because when he is alone he feels the presence of a great void, a nothingness of which he is afraid. Life, he muses, is a great nothing and a man is a nothing as well. God, he implies, is a nothing, and recites the Lord’s Prayer, inserting “nada” in strategic locations. What he needs, he says, is light, cleanness and order, an environment like the café where he works, to get him through each day.
He wanders into a bar and orders a small cup of wine. He notes to the barman that the bar is unpolished, and then he wanders out. He realizes again that he misses his own café, and predicts that he will have difficulty falling asleep. He muses on the possibility that his depression is just due to insomnia.
ANALYSIS
“A Clean, Well Lighted Place” is Hemingway’s paean to a type of existential nihilism= an exploration of the meaning, or lack thereof, of existence. It clearly expresses the philosophy that underlies the Hemingway canon, dwelling on themes of death, futility, meaninglessness, and depression. Through the thoughts and words of a middle-aged Spanish waiter, Hemingway encapsulates the main tenet of his existential philosophy. Life is inherently meaningless and leads inevitably to death, and the older one gets, the clearer these truths become and the less able one is to impose any kind of order on one’s existence or maintain any kind of positivity in one’s outlook.
The bases of Hemingway’s philosophy in this story are existentialism, a philosophical system originated in the 19th century by Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche and given full play in the post WWI years by Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and nihilism, a related philosophical system popularized primarily by Nietzsche. Existentialism derives from the belief that existence is inherently meaningless and that individuals are solely responsible for giving meaning to their own lives. They must impose their own systems of values and beliefs on themselves and overcome feelings of despair and angst to live by their own values. In this way, they become “authentic” individuals by following their own principles. In existentialism, the individual is the unit of existence and the majority of existentialists reject the existence of a higher power, creator, or “God,” and they are scornful of organized religion. Nihilism is a related belief system that posits, generally, that life is meaningless, futile, and without morality, and that, contrary to existentialism, no system of meaning or morality can be imposed on it by individuals or anyone else.
Hemingway’s particular brand of philosophy in this story, as expressed by the middle-aged waiter, can be described as existential nihilism, a combination of these two belief systems. Life is meaningless and futile, he argues, and though one may try to impose meaning and order on one’s own existence, this effort eventually proves futile as death overtakes us all. Hemingway, like many of his generation, felt a sense of disillusionment and dislocation following his traumatic experiences during World War I, and his embrace of existential nihilism in this story can be seen as a reaction to this feeling.
The thoughts expressed by the middle-aged waiter track exactly with the basic tenets of existentialism and nihilism. For example, the waiter explains: “What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too.” This sentiment is a perfect expression of existential angst and nihilistic negation, the realization that life is emptiness, that a man’s life means nothing and that his existence signifies nothing to himself, nothing to others and nothing to the universe. The waiter then expresses his particular way of dealing with this realization: “It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order.” The waiter gravitates toward places that are lighted, clean, and orderly, like the café where he works; this is his way of coping with existence, his own private set of conditions that help him get through each day. However, the fact that the waiter must leave the café and go home, which depresses him and makes him unable to sleep, implies that he is unable to live his entire life adhering to this system of light, cleanness and order, and indicates the fact that his own attempt to impose meaning and structure on his life is futile. The waiter is therefore a failed existentialist, an existentialist who has succumbed to depression and despair and sunk into nihilism.
In addition, the waiter expresses a sentiment common to most existentialists and nihilists: God does not exist. “Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name,” he says, echoing the Lord’s Prayer but glorifying “nada.” The repetition of “nada” throughout this comparatively long paragraph serves simultaneously to increase the intensity and urgency of the tone, and to make the entire passage sound slightly absurd.
The words and actions of the middle-aged waiter form the basic philosophical structure of “A Clean, Well Lighted Place,” but Hemingway sharply contrasts his beliefs with those of the other two characters, the young waiter and the old man. Unlike the middle-aged waiter, the young waiter is in a hurry; he has something to live for, namely, getting home to his wife. He has “everything,” “youth, confidence, and a job.” He seems to have everything going for him and retains his purpose in life; he does not seem to understand the depression that has overtaken his colleague, nor why his colleague is drawn to the “clean, well lighted” café.
The old man is at a different stage of his life from both the young and middle-aged waiters. He has already tried to take his own life once because “he was in despair” over “nothing,” and stays drinking late at the café because he does not want to go home and because he is lonely. Hemingway does not give the reader as much insight into the old man’s thoughts as into those of the two waiters, so it is difficult to say whether the old man’s despair is of the existential nihilistic variety or is due to a death in the family or any number of other depressing occurrences. On the other hand, the “nothing” that he is in despair over echoes the “nada” of the middle-aged waiter’s later soliloquy, and suggests that the old man has simply gotten tired of the futility of existence and that’s why he attempted suicide.
Hemingway scholars have commented on the presence of three characters in three different stages of life as an allegory demonstrating the progression of an individual’s outlook on life as that individual gets older. At first, the individual lives confidently and unthinkingly, accepting the conventions of job and family as sufficient to give meaning to his or her (in this case, his) life, but as he gets older, he begins to question the types of meaning that have been imposed on his existence and finds them hollow. He may attempt to impose his own set of meanings and values on himself, but ultimately, Hemingway implies, he will fail and slip into the realization that life is nothing and he is nothing. Once this realization is reached and he grows old, he falls into despair at the nearness of death and the futility of his life, and may well choose to end his existence on his own terms rather than wait for events to overtake him. Perhaps, with this choice, he is finally able to take some control over his destiny.
Hemingway, it has often been observed, was obsessed with death, and that obsession can be seen clearly in this story. In fact, his philosophy as expressed by this story can be understood more clearly when considered in relation to death than in relation to life. Life is futile and meaningless because the individual cannot prevent death from overtaking him; his nihilism results not so much from wondering about the meaning of existence than from wondering about the inevitability, meaning, and purpose of death.
There is a simpler explanation for the difference between the depression felt by the middle-aged waiter and old man and the confidence felt by the young waiter: the young waiter is the only one with a wife. It is either because he has a wife or because the fact that he has a wife means that he is not lonely that the young waiter expresses some optimism in his outlook. He himself dismisses his colleague’s suggestion that the old man might be less unhappy with a wife, but this suggestion is obviously born of experience as the middle-aged waiter speaks of dreading another long, sleepless night spent alone in his bedroom. The presence or absence of a wife, however, is likely significant only because if one is alone with one’s thoughts, one is more likely to despair than if one is in company.
One interesting aspect of this story is the fact that the original edition of it seemed to mix up the lines of dialogue between the young and the middle-aged waiters in multiple places. For example, at one point, the young waiter seemed to have the information about the old man’s suicide attempt, and at another point, it was the middle-aged waiter. Hemingway designates the speaker in some of these exchanges as “one waiter,” rather than “young waiter” or “older waiter.” Some critics have dismissed this discrepancy as a typographical error or a result of Hemingway’s idiosyncratic way of writing dialogue and subsequent editions of the story have imposed consistency on the dialogue, but revisionist critics have urged that Hemingway’s original edition should be reinstated. The confusion, they have argued, was deliberately created in order to imply that the speaker could be either the young waiter or the older one; this interchangeability supports the view that the story is an allegory exploring the progression of one’s outlook on life from youth to age.
In terms of imagery, the story uses a number of contrasts to enhance its philosophical meaning: youth and age, darkness and light, cleanness and filthiness, noise and quiet, and nature (shadows of leaves) and manmade objects (coffee machine).

Part 2:
In the story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway, one of the most important topics of this story has to do with loneliness. There are two waiters, an older waiter and a younger waiter. There’s also an old deaf man and a bartender. They are at an empty caf late at night. The old man and old waiter are lonely. The young waiter is in a hurry to get home. The bartender is disinterested, but he’s like the young waiter, wanting to get home. The lonely characters would like to stay at the caf to escape reality, whereas the characters that aren’t lonely want to go home.

The old man appears to be deaf and desires nothing more from life than just to get drunk. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol. The old man attempts to commit suicide because “he was in despair” (Hemingway 7). He tried to commit suicide by hanging himself, but his niece cut him down. His despair is a result of being old; “He must be eighty years old”(Hemingway 80). He is also lonely because his wife died and he doesn’t have anyone to talk to about his problems or just to keep him company.

Young waiter lacks compassion and only thinks about himself. He thinks that his time is more important than the old man’s time. An hour is “more to me than to him” (Hemingway 81). The young waiter says, “I wouldn’t want to be that old, an old man is a nasty thing” (Hemingway 81). That shows that he doesn’t have any compassion towards the old man. The young waiter just doesn’t have any respect for the old man. He says that “I don’t want to look at him, I wish he would go home” (Hemingway 81).

The lonely characters would like to stay at the caf to escape reality, whereas the characters that aren’t lonely want to go home. The young waiter is not lonely, but anxious to get home to his wife. The old waiter is very similar to the old man except the old waiter has a job. The old man feels that he has nothing to live for other than getting drunk, however, life is not found in a bottle, it’s found in life experiences and relationships. Alcohol hinders these experiences and relationships.

“A Clean, Well Lighted Place” was written by Ernest Hemingway in 1933. The short story was based upon a conversation between two waiters in a café in Madrid, Spain at about 2:00 am in the morning. The focus of the conversation was an old man who was sitting in the cafe. Quiet and deaf, the old man drinks at the cafe on a nightly basis. Even though he was quite intoxicated, amazingly he was still quite distinguished. The old man is sitting at a table in the shadows of the tree, formed by the lights of the café. The waiters are keeping a close eye on the old man, because he has been known to leave without paying when he becomes drunk. Throughout the story we see that the waiters have nothing in common, other than they work at the same café. Hemingway uses the old man to demonstrate the waiter’s philosophies and their differences, and outlooks on life.
As the two waiters are watching the old man, the younger waiter is becoming impatient and aggravated due to the time. The younger man mentions that the old man tried to hang himself the week before. But failed in his attempt, because his niece cut him down. The older waiter questions the motives of the old man in his attempt. The younger waiter replies by saying the old man has plenty of money. Maybe the younger waiter believes that there is nothing worse than a shortage of money. And with money comes’ happiness, and that should be more than enough to compensate for loneliness.
The younger waiter wishes for the old man to leave and says to the old man that he should have killed himself last week. The older waiter responds with “He stays up because he likes it”. The younger waiter says, “He’s lonely. I’m not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me”. The old man once had a wife and now cannot be happy without her. The younger waiter believes that a wife would be useless to the old man now. The old man has chosen darkness instead of the light. He has chose death rather than life. The older waiter understands the old man much more than the younger waiter. And would have no problem staying open for this man. He too is a lonely man who goes home to nothing, but the struggle of trying to fall asleep at night. He understands that the old man has nowhere to go but the clean well lit café.
The younger man is becoming more irritated by the old mans extended stay. When the old man requests another brandy from the waiters the younger waiter refused the old mans wishes. The younger man cut him off and told the old man he was finished. So the old man left. Walking down the street looking distinguished, even though he was drunk. The old man keeps his composure. The younger man is only concerned with himself and his time. His one hour, he could have given up to stay open is more important than the old mans comfort and emptiness. While closing the café down the younger man says “I have confidence. I am all confidence.” “You have youth, confidence, and a job,” the older waiter said. “You have everything”. At this point the older waiter says that he has never had confidence, and he’s not a young man anymore. All he has is his job at the café to get him by. Then confesses that he himself is one of those people who like to stay late at the café. “With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night”. The older waiter tells the younger waiter “Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the café”.
The younger waiter leaves and goes home to his wife and life outside of the café. The older waiter finishing the conversation with himself, then goes off on some sac religious rant. In that Hemingway is trying to get across the reader that mans fate is sealed. Mans fate is to enter into nothingness from nothingness, for life is nothing. And off he goes on his way home only to stop at a bar himself and have a drink to avoid the darkness of night. And to delay the hours he will lie in bed waiting for the sun so he to can fall asleep.
The character of the young waiter is one who has a naive attitude toward society. He has nothing more to do than take care of himself. The older waiter knows his life is empty and fears the future. He realizes that the old man is very similar to himself. And fears that he is too much like the old man already. The older waiter gets out of working what the old man gets out of drinking.
As you can see the waiters both lead very different lives, and their views are quite different. The old man in this story was used to demonstrate the differences and outlooks on life between the older and younger waiter. I think Hemingway sympathizes with the old man in this story. I believe the old man is much like Hemingway himself. Hemingway was a success in society’s eye but was obviously was unhappy and eventually took his own life in 1961.
Hemingway uses powerful symbolism in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. However, this symbolism does not stray far from the literal, as Hemingway blatantly depicts the pain of growing old and searching for dignity. Finding a clean, well-lighted place to have a drink at night and pass the lonely hours away was Hemingway’s way of illustrating peace in old age, a time that he feared and saw as dark shadow. Illustrating this very point was the old man in the story who sat “in the shadow of the leaves of the tree that moved slightly in the wind”.

The character of the young waiter is one who has a naive attitude toward society. He has nothing more to do than take care of himself. The older waiter knows his life is empty and fears the future. He realizes that the old man is very similar to himself. And fears that he is too much like the old man already. The older waiter gets out of working what the old man gets out of drinking.
As you can see the waiters both lead very different lives, and their views are quite different. The old man in this story was used to demonstrate the differences and outlooks on life between the older and younger waiter.

Dignity was something that came natural to the haughtiness of youth, not to the old man marred by time. The old man of the story struggled to find a place that he could spend his time in that left him with his dignity. After the café closed, he was force to the bodegas, which were open all night. However, he rebuked “Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for at this hour”. The café is a symbol of hope to the old man and he valued it, as illustrated in how he presented himself in the café. The older waiter points out, “This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling. Even now, drunk”. Not even the younger waiter can poise himself as well as the older, drunk man for he spills the brandy he pours to the old man.

In 1933, Ernest Hemmingway wrote A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. It's a story of two waiters working late one night in a cafe. Their last customer, a lonely old man getting drunk, is their last customer. The younger waiter wishes the customer would leave while the other waiter is indifferent because he isn't in so much of a hurry. I had a definite, differentiated response to this piece of literature because in my occupation I can relate to both cafe workers.

Hemmingway's somber tale is about conquering late night loneliness in a bright cafe. The customer drinking brandy suffers from it and so does the older waiter. However, the younger waiter cannot understand loneliness because he probably hasn't been very lonely in his life. He mentions a couple times throughout the story that he wished to be able to go home to his wife, yet the old man and old waiter have no wives to go home to like he does. This story have a deeper meaning to me because I often am in a similar situation at work.

For a little over three years, I've been a weekend bartender at an American Legion Club. I almost always work the entire weekends, open to close, which proves to be a tortorous schedule at times. Like the cafe in Hemmingway's tale, the Legion is a civilized place, often well lit, and quieter than most clubs. Because members have to either have served in the military during wartime or have a relative that did, the patronage is often older and more respectful than an average barroom. And because most members are older, they may not have a family to go home to, or they may be just a little more dismal because their lives have been longer and harder than most. In many ways, they are very much like the old man sipping brandy while hiding in the shadows of the leaves in Hemmingway's cafe. And in many ways, I am like the young waiter, anxious to leave.

The character of the young waiter is one who has a naive attitude toward society. He has nothing more to do than take care of himself. The older waiter knows his life is empty and fears the future. He realizes that the old man is very similar to himself. And fears that he is too much like the old man already. The older waiter gets out of working what the old man gets out of drinking.
As you can see the waiters both lead very different lives, and their views are quite different. The old man in this story was used to demonstrate the differences and outlooks on life between the older and younger waiter.

Dignity was something that came natural to the haughtiness of youth, not to the old man marred by time. The old man of the story struggled to find a place that he could spend his time in that left him with his dignity.

The young waiter seems selfish and inconsiderate of anyone else. In the beginning of the story, he's confused why the old man tried to kill himself. "He has plenty of money," he says, as if that's the only thing anyone needs for happiness. When the old man orders another drink, the younger waiter warns him that he'll get drunk, as if to waver his own responsibility rather than to warn the old man for his sake. At work, I often feel the same, that people get what they deserve and that it's no one's fault but their own. When the hours get late and my eyelids get heavy, I catagorize my customers and make their lives seem trivial. Because I'm selfish, I want my customers to leave so that I can then leave and go to bed. If I stick around too long at work, I'll catch a second wind and be wide awake by the time I finally do get home. Then I'll have trouble sleeping and staying awake the following day behind the bar. One late night can wreck the entire weekend.

In Hemmingway's story the younger waiter tells the old man (who probably can't hear him because he's deaf) that he should've killed himself. This is a terribly cruel thing to say but I would guess that he really didn't mean it. He only wants him to go home because he can't understand his need of staying. In the young waiter's eyes he isn't selfish for wanting to go home, but the old man is selfish for staying. This is a common thought of mine when I'm working. Why must people come so early and stay so late? It seems eternities pass while they're there. He doesn't understand the importance of a place where other lonely souls may linger. He can only think of himself, and when you're young, it's hard to think of anyone else.

The other waiter in Hemmingway's tale begins seeming indifferent to the old customer. But as the story progresses, he defends him because he can relate to his despair. He calls him clean and like himself, lacking of confidence and a place to exist that reminds him he's still alive. Drinking at home just isn't the same, he tells his younger co-worker, and they both agree to this. The old man sits looking out the window, as if life was a movie to him, and he was living it by observing. Near the end of the story, he admits his reluctance to close up the cafe because he knows that there may be someone who needs a "clean, well-lighted place." However anxious I am behind the bar to go home some nights, I feel this way too. Besides the obvious advantage of a larger paycheck, late nights behind the bar can be rewarding in many ways. As the day dies and night is born, the moods lighten. Customers, touched by a few drinks, mellow out, and become a lot more entertaining. That's not to say they all get drunk and funny, even though that happens too. But they get more friendly, and as thirsty for each other's company as they are for another beer. If I don't have any plans for the following day, I don't mind keeping the bar open for this mellow crowd numbing their despair with the drink. Oftentimes I enjoy their company too, and I understand their need for my consideration in serving them a few more drinks. My impatience can and usually does wait.

A Quiet, Cup Full of Sorrows and Loneliness
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” by Ernest Hemingway is a story of a forlorn elderly man who drinks his life away. One night while he was having a few drinks at a quiet café, two waiters started trying to make sense of his life. The old man was a regular, and by this time the waiters had managed to learn some things about him. As the story starts to evolve, the author uses a good sense of dialogue between the two waiters to really look into their personalities. By doing so, Hemingway builds the characters, and uses irony to establish the story.
The main character is the old man, who is illustrated by the waiters as “ a little drunk, and while he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying” (Hemingway 143). Hemingway acknowledges the old man from the conversation of the two waiters; the deaf old man once had a wife and possibly a family, but now is alone and in the care of his niece, who saved him from a suicide attempt. The older of the two waiters seems to know quite a lot, for he understands the old man. He too appreciates the quality of good light but it is also necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. Certainly, you do not want music (146). The younger waiter is just a typical young man, he is impatient and only cares about getting home to his wife as early as possible. Having to stay late and serve the old man drinks irritates the young waiter, and he doesn’t care that it shows. He doesn’t understand like the older waiter nor seem to care why the old man likes to stay so long.

). Hemingway acknowledges the old man from the conversation of the two waiters; the deaf old man once had a wife and possibly a family, but now is alone and in the care of his niece, who saved him from a suicide attempt. The older of the two waiters seems to know quite a lot, for he understands the old man. He too appreciates the quality of good light but it is also necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. Certainly, you do not want music (146). The younger waiter is just a typical young man, he is impatient and only cares about getting home to his wife as early as possible. Having to stay late and serve the old man drinks irritates the young waiter, and he doesn’t care that it shows. He doesn’t understand like the older waiter nor seem to care why the old man likes to stay so long.

They explain how people such as the young waiter, are always on the outside looking in and not really noticing that the people closest to them are the ones suffering. Furthermore, it’s nice to know that the older waiter understands the old man. It would be easy to think that neither of the waiters would comprehend what it’s like to be alone, but one knows by experience, and by noticing the old man is able to see the future that lies ahead of him. The elements tie in how Hemingway portrays the age differences of the waiters and shows the different maturity levels. The view on alcohol is also seen uniquely through the characters. The younger waiter sees it as just something one does, while the older waiter and the old man see it as a hypnotic, that numbs the pain and loneliness they feel. The alcohol gives them a pleasure that they both understand, and maybe with time the younger waiter will understand as well.

Critics often see these themes emerge as reflections of the cultural and spiritual malaise of the disillusioned, post-World War I Western world. This story, with its suggestion of war (the presence of the soldier and the guard) and disconnected, lonely characters, manages to bring three vast concepts – loneliness, age, and death – to the reader in an incredibly effective, tragic yet subdued way.

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
The clean, well-lighted café of the story's title is its central image. This kind of café is a kind of idealized space; in it, even the loneliest, most despairing of men can find some kind of comfort. The café represents a space in which one can escape from troubles – in this case, from the despair of everyday life. The older waiter explains why these specific elements are necessary in his ideal space: he needs the café to be clean and quiet (music is absolutely out), and most importantly, he requires a lot of light. But why? What does that light do for these characters? Why can't the older waiter or the old man be content to sit in a dimly-lit bar to drink undisturbed?

The answer is simple – light chases away the dark. You know that feeling of insecurity and dread that can creep in at night? That's what these characters are feeling; the older waiter expresses it best when he describes the awful nothingness of life – "nada y pues nada y pues nada" (14). Nothing can offer him comfort, and this vast spiritual emptiness is overwhelming. Hemingway suggests that only the light of a pleasant café, and the numbing effect of drunkenness, can push away the dark realization that we are all nothing.

Hemingway demonstrates the element of irony by showing the lonely lifestyle the old man leads, and by interpreting that the older waiter’s life will soon lead up to that. This is clear in the older waiter’s statement “I am of those who like to stay late at the café. With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night” (145). It is obvious that the waiter doesn’t want to go home because he too is lonely just like the old man, and enjoys the mood of a well-lighted place. The atmosphere comforts him and hides him from the dark and desolate life he leads.

The Old waiter could relate to the old man because he was more like him. The old waiter was in no hurry to go home because he has no one or nothing to go home to. “Why didn’t you let him stay and drink? It is not half past two,” (Hemingway 81) said the old waiter. The old waiter was suggesting that it wasn’t closing time and that the old man could have stayed. The old waiter is compassionate, unlike the young waiter. He says, “he might be better with a wife” (Hemingway 81).

Hemingway encapsulates the main tenet of his existential philosophy. Life is inherently meaningless and leads inevitably to death, and the older one gets, the clearer these truths become and the less able one is to impose any kind of order on one’s existence or maintain any kind of positivity in one’s outlook.

Unlike the middle-aged waiter, the young waiter is in a hurry; he has something to live for, namely, getting home to his wife. He has “everything,” “youth, confidence, and a job.” He seems to have everything going for him and retains his purpose in life; he does not seem to understand the depression that has overtaken his colleague, nor why his colleague is drawn to the “clean, well lighted” café.
The old man is at a different stage of his life from both the young and middle-aged waiters. He has already tried to take his own life once because “he was in despair” over “nothing,” and stays drinking late at the café because he does not want to go home and because he is lonely.

Hemingway scholars have commented on the presence of three characters in three different stages of life as an allegory demonstrating the progression of an individual’s outlook on life as that individual gets older. At first, the individual lives confidently and unthinkingly, accepting the conventions of job and family as sufficient to give meaning to his or her (in this case, his) life, but as he gets older, he begins to question the types of meaning that have been imposed on his existence and finds them hollow. He may attempt to impose his own set of meanings and values on himself, but ultimately, Hemingway implies, he will fail and slip into the realization that life is nothing and he is nothing. Once this realization is reached and he grows old, he falls into despair at the nearness of death and the futility of his life, and may well choose to end his existence on his own terms rather than wait for events to overtake him. Perhaps, with this choice, he is finally able to take some control over his destiny.

There is a simpler explanation for the difference between the depression felt by the middle-aged waiter and old man and the confidence felt by the young waiter: the young waiter is the only one with a wife. It is either because he has a wife or because the fact that he has a wife means that he is not lonely that the young waiter expresses some optimism in his outlook. He himself dismisses his colleague’s suggestion that the old man might be less unhappy with a wife, but this suggestion is obviously born of experience as the middle-aged waiter speaks of dreading another long, sleepless night spent alone in his bedroom. The presence or absence of a wife, however, is likely significant only because if one is alone with one’s thoughts, one is more likely to despair than if one is in company.

The old man appears to be deaf and desires nothing more from life than just to get drunk. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol. The old man attempts to commit suicide because “he was in despair” (Hemingway 7). He tried to commit suicide by hanging himself, but his niece cut him down. His despair is a result of being old; “He must be eighty years old”(Hemingway 80). He is also lonely because his wife died and he doesn’t have anyone to talk to about his problems or just to keep him company.

Young waiter lacks compassion and only thinks about himself. He thinks that his time is more important than the old man’s time. An hour is “more to me than to him” (Hemingway 81). The young waiter says, “I wouldn’t want to be that old, an old man is a nasty thing” (Hemingway 81). That shows that he doesn’t have any compassion towards the old man. The young waiter just doesn’t have any respect for the old man. He says that “I don’t want to look at him, I wish he would go home” (Hemingway 81).

The lonely characters would like to stay at the caf to escape reality, whereas the characters that aren’t lonely want to go home. The young waiter is not lonely, but anxious to get home to his wife. The old waiter is very similar to the old man except the old waiter has a job. The old man feels that he has nothing to live for other than getting drunk, however, life is not found in a bottle, it’s found in life experiences and relationships. Alcohol hinders these experiences and relationships.

the story is an allegory exploring the progression of one’s outlook on life from youth to age.
In terms of imagery, the story uses a number of contrasts to enhance its philosophical meaning: youth and age, darkness and light, cleanness and filthiness, noise and quiet, and nature (shadows of leaves) and manmade objects (coffee machine).

The old man appears to be deaf and desires nothing more from life than just to get drunk. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol. The old man attempts to commit suicide because “he was in despair” (Hemingway 7). He tried to commit suicide by hanging himself, but his niece cut him down. His despair is a result of being old; “He must be eighty years old”(Hemingway 80). He is also lonely because his wife died and he doesn’t have anyone to talk to about his problems or just to keep him company.

Young waiter lacks compassion and only thinks about himself. He thinks that his time is more important than the old man’s time. An hour is “more to me than to him” (Hemingway 81). The young waiter says, “I wouldn’t want to be that old, an old man is a nasty thing” (Hemingway 81). That shows that he doesn’t have any compassion towards the old man. The young waiter just doesn’t have any respect for the old man. He says that “I don’t want to look at him, I wish he would go home” (Hemingway 81).

The character of the young waiter is one who has a naive attitude toward society. He has nothing more to do than take care of himself. The older waiter knows his life is empty and fears the future. He realizes that the old man is very similar to himself. And fears that he is too much like the old man already. The older waiter gets out of working what the old man gets out of drinking.
As you can see the waiters both lead very different lives, and their views are quite different. The old man in this story was used to demonstrate the differences and outlooks on life between the older and younger waiter.

Dignity was something that came natural to the haughtiness of youth, not to the old man marred by time. The old man of the story struggled to find a place that he could spend his time in that left him with his dignity.

The young waiter seems selfish and inconsiderate of anyone else. In the beginning of the story, he's confused why the old man tried to kill himself. "He has plenty of money," he says, as if that's the only thing anyone needs for happiness. When the old man orders another drink, the younger waiter warns him that he'll get drunk, as if to waver his own responsibility rather than to warn the old man for his sake. At work, I often feel the same, that people get what they deserve and that it's no one's fault but their own.

In Hemmingway's story the younger waiter tells the old man (who probably can't hear him because he's deaf) that he should've killed himself. This is a terribly cruel thing to say but I would guess that he really didn't mean it. He only wants him to go home because he can't understand his need of staying. In the young waiter's eyes he isn't selfish for wanting to go home, but the old man is selfish for staying. This is a common thought of mine when I'm working. Why must people come so early and stay so late? It seems eternities pass while they're there. He doesn't understand the importance of a place where other lonely souls may linger. He can only think of himself, and when you're young, it's hard to think of anyone else.

The other waiter in Hemmingway's tale begins seeming indifferent to the old customer. But as the story progresses, he defends him because he can relate to his despair. He calls him clean and like himself, lacking of confidence and a place to exist that reminds him he's still alive. Drinking at home just isn't the same, he tells his younger co-worker, and they both agree to this. The old man sits looking out the window, as if life was a movie to him, and he was living it by observing. Near the end of the story, he admits his reluctance to close up the cafe because he knows that there may be someone who needs a "clean, well-lighted place."

Hemingway acknowledges the old man from the conversation of the two waiters; the deaf old man once had a wife and possibly a family, but now is alone and in the care of his niece, who saved him from a suicide attempt. The older of the two waiters seems to know quite a lot, for he understands the old man. He too appreciates the quality of good light but it is also necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. Certainly, you do not want music (146). The younger waiter is just a typical young man, he is impatient and only cares about getting home to his wife as early as possible. Having to stay late and serve the old man drinks irritates the young waiter, and he doesn’t care that it shows. He doesn’t understand like the older waiter nor seem to care why the old man likes to stay so long.

). Hemingway acknowledges the old man from the conversation of the two waiters; the deaf old man once had a wife and possibly a family, but now is alone and in the care of his niece, who saved him from a suicide attempt. The older of the two waiters seems to know quite a lot, for he understands the old man. He too appreciates the quality of good light but it is also necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. Certainly, you do not want music (146). The younger waiter is just a typical young man, he is impatient and only cares about getting home to his wife as early as possible. Having to stay late and serve the old man drinks irritates the young waiter, and he doesn’t care that it shows. He doesn’t understand like the older waiter nor seem to care why the old man likes to stay so long.

They explain how people such as the young waiter, are always on the outside looking in and not really noticing that the people closest to them are the ones suffering. Furthermore, it’s nice to know that the older waiter understands the old man. It would be easy to think that neither of the waiters would comprehend what it’s like to be alone, but one knows by experience, and by noticing the old man is able to see the future that lies ahead of him. The elements tie in how Hemingway portrays the age differences of the waiters and shows the different maturity levels. The view on alcohol is also seen uniquely through the characters. The younger waiter sees it as just something one does, while the older waiter and the old man see it as a hypnotic, that numbs the pain and loneliness they feel. The alcohol gives them a pleasure that they both understand, and maybe with time the younger waiter will understand as well.

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