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Literal Analysis Essay

Time, a subject as universal and engaging as life itself. In a sense, without time the world would be

a vastly different place. The way in which we perceive our lives based on this unifying concept

plays a strong role in how we go about our days, months, and even years. The idea of time not only

plays a factor in our everyday lives and productivity, but it can also take shape in our literature,

media, and an overall means of expressing ourselves. Time is what helps organize us and our

hectic schedules, the fortifying force that keeps our lives from falling into chaos. The progression

of age is seen as a bi­product of time, a change in the senses. In a way, the idea of time is as crucial

to us as breathing. The imagery and emotion shown in Ernest Hemingway's short story “A Clean,

Well­Lighted Place” address the importance of time in a powerful and depressing manner through

the characters of a drunk old man, two waiters, and the setting of a night cafe. The idea of the

vastness of time can be intricately depicted in his detailed imagery, from the way the old man

remains in a sense of aged loneliness while retaining his sense of self, as well as the sympathetic

relation the older waiter holds towards the drunk man. As crucial, and sometimes fearing, as time

is in the natural aging cycle of life, it can also be a gatekeeper of youth and social engagement, as

depicted in the younger waiter.

In the on going race that is called life, there are moments that could freeze us in time. Moments of

reflection that can leave one in a melancholic state of pondering, leaving nothing but the time that

has past as a memento. This relation of time and aging can be seen in the character of the drunk old

man as well as the setting of the cafe. Throughout Hemingway's story the cafe, though staying in

it's true form, goes through gradual changes, as one would during life. Such as going from a busy

establishment full of life to a dull, drained chamber for sombre thoughts. The lasting idea of an old

man drinking his nights away can be seen as a doorway into a life plagued by loneliness. A life

devoid of content meaning after years of youthful vibrance; “A girl and a soldier went by in the

street” (1). In a sense, one could view this as a possible window into their own future. The image

of brandy being continuously poured into the old mans glass, in a waterfall­like motion, can be

seen as a means to an end. The flavour of the finely distilled spirit, like the old mans days of

youthful whimsy and joy, are all but gone as he counts his drinks away. The over all theme of age

coming with time can also be seen in the sympathetic ways in which the older waiter responds to

the drunk man, in a sense, seeing himself in his shoes.

With age comes new behaviours, and with new behaviours come new ways of thinking. The

concept of time playing a role in the way we grow and develop can shape every last bit of our

being. In Hemingway's story, the old waiter defends the behaviour of the drunk man in a subtle,

yet readily noticeable, sympathetic manner. In his engagement in conversation with the young

waiter, he is seen to realize the nature of his own existence; that he in many ways is similar to the

drunk man. The old waiter is in no rush to get rid of the drunk man, but would rather willingly

keep the cafe open for he is, “of those who like to stay late at the cafe” (3). The idea of being able

to spend your nights, in a “clean and pleasant cafe” (3), without any disturbance is not only a

matter of being young and confident in your abilities, “a very old man walking unsteadily but with

dignity" (2), but rather being there to lend a helping hand to anyone in need; “I am reluctant to

close up because there may be some one who needs the cafe” (3). As the story progresses, more

signs of the gradual aging with time in the old waiter can be seen, such as potential early signs of a

debilitating ailment “he continued the conversation with himself” (3). Throughout his short story

Hemingway is able to draw on the idea of the old waiter sympathizing with the drunk man

knowing that he, too, prefers a clean, well­lighted place and because someday he'll need someone

to keep a cafe open for him. The contrasting difference between youth and age can be as simple as

the difference between light and dark, although both show some similarities, they are both on

opposite ends to one another. This idea is shown through the attitude of the young waiter.

The ways in which the idea of time can be perceived in vastly different ways, based on age groups,

can be best shown in the attitude of the young waiter towards the old drunk, compared to that of

the older waiter. Throughout the story, Hemingway, establishes the idea that the young waiter is

pressed for time, or in a sense, rushed for time; “I'm sleepy now, I never get into bed before three

o'clock” (1). This added sense of eagerness to leave his place of work can reinforce the idea that

the young, bustling, waiter is too caught up in his own pre­planned form of existence to slow down

and appreciate the true reality of the life around him. That he can go home to his wife waiting in

bed. Although showing much of an unsavoury tongue towards the behaviour and disposition of

the old man, the youthful waiter can also be shown to be fearful of the inevitable, he himself aging.

The sense of being lonely and debilitated, as unpleasant as a bag of garbage, “I wouldn't want to be

that old. An old man is a nasty thing” (2). In a convincing manner, the young waiter seems to be in

a state of confusion towards the actions and thoughts of his fellow co­worker, as though he doesn't

see the significance and importance of keeping the cafe open; “You talk like an old man yourself”

(2). To extend its time further into the day. Not only is there a progression of night to day, but as

well as a progression of age amongst the characters from being young and very social to old and

lonely. In his story Ernest Hemingway is able to treat the idea of time as a unifying factor in the

way the characters go about their lives.

As demanding a topic as time is, it can be put into simple terms based on the context of its

relevance. In our daily lives we rely on time as an organizer, a way in which we keep everything in

our lives in full swing and control. In Ernest Hemingway's short story “A Clean, Well­Lighted

Place” he relates the idea of time to the ways in which his characters develop gradually in this slow

paced story, in a sense to show their inner attitudes and behaviour towards aging and, potentially,

loneliness. In “A Clean, Well­Lighted Place” Hemingway portrays time as a difference in age,

experience and an overall state of self existence.…...

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