Much of the critical commentary on the short story focuses on a series of unattributed lines of dialogue. The place is empty except for a regular customer, a deaf old man drinking alone at one of the tables. Realizing that the old man is drunk, one of the waiters informs the other that the customer attempted suicide the week before. After the waiters watch a young man and woman pass on the street, the young waiter serves the old customer another brandy and voices his impatience to the old waiter, complaining that the old man is keeping him from his warm bed and the comfort of his wife.
They discuss the old man's suicide attempt and his possible reasons for such a desperate act. When the old man gestures for another brandy, the young waiter tells him that it is closing time. After the old man pays his bill and leaves, the old waiter chides the young waiter for his lack of patience and empathy for the old man.
He compares himself to the man, saying he understands the need for a clean, well-lighted place to be at night. In his short fiction Hemingway depicted a disillusioning environment in which his protagonists address the precariousness of existence, the evanescence of happiness, and the universality of suffering. Critics have noted a series of contrasts in the story: In fact, many believe that the major thematic concern of the story is the conflict between generations.
This is illustrated by the contrast between the two major characters: A few commentators have viewed the three main characters in the story as an implied progression from youth through middle age to old age.
Hemingway rarely identified the speaker of each line of dialogue, and confusion ensued about which character was speaking each line. In fact, some of the dialogue seemed to be uttered by the wrong character.
At first, commentators speculated that there was a mistake in the text: Hemingway or his publisher, Scribner's, had forgotten or omitted a line of dialogue, throwing off the entire exchange between the two characters. In , Otto Reinert challenged the prevailing theory that Hemingway employed metronomic dialogue and that each indented line implied a new speaker.
The cafe is shown as a "Clean, Well-Lighted Place". The cafe is a safe haven from the gloominess of the outer night.
Darkness is a representation of fear and isolation. On the other hand, light signifies reassurance and the companionship of other people. There is despair in the darkness, while the light composes the nerves.
Sadly for the old gentle man, this light is artificial, and its tranquility is both incomplete and temporary. Perhaps the old gentleman hides in the dimness of the leaves as he recognizes the inadequacy of his retreat.
Maybe he is drawn towards the shadows so as the shadows of his age may not be as evident as in the full vigor of the stimulating light. His own body is gloomy with the consequences of poor health. The old gentleman preferred to sit until late into the night the reason being that was hard of hearing and now at nighttime it was calm and he could thus feel the dissimilarity. Deafness locks out the old gentleman out from the world.
In the daytime, everything was a flash back of his disentanglement from the rest of the world. The marketplace, busy streets, the babble on the cafes down the motor vehicles, including the avenues and the animals plug the town with loud noise all day. The old man is aware of this and is also aware that he is totally disconnected from the noises that he perhaps had not consideration much about as a youngster.
In this cafe late at dusk he is not omitted much. When he was 19 Hemingway enlisted in the army. He was rejected due to a defective left eye. He then turned to the Red Cross in which he became a second lieutenant. The Red Cross brought him to the front lines of the war in Italy. It was here where he saw many disturbing sights which probably had a hand in shaping his character. After extensive injuries from the war, Hemingway returned unhappily to Oak Park. The impression left on him by his participation in the war had greatly changed him.
He began living at home again but refused to get a job, even when his mother ordered him to. Soon she kicked him out and he moved to Chicago. Here he made a living writing for the Toronto Star and working as a sparring partner for boxers. While he was in Chicago he met his first wife, the young and innocent Elizabeth Hadley Richardson. Soon the young couple were married and they moved to Paris.
It was here where Hemingway encountered many of the greats, F. It was Stein who took him under her wing. She was first to point him in the direction of the simple declarative sentence, which was another great influence on his style. Bull fighting seemed to trigger a whole new interest in Spain. There is an old deaf man who sits alone on a patio, sipping brandy.
Together two waiters observe the old man who is their last customer.
This most likely resulted in his heavy drinking, and the "clean, well-lighted" bars that he went to would give him comfort. Many writers use different ways of approaching place as a theme. Some writers use the place with the character's personalities, or some use the place as a higher power.
[In the following essay, MacDonald concurs with Charles Mays's interpretation of the dialogue in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” contending that Hemingway ignored normal dialogue conventions in several other fictional works.
Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" reflects the contrasts of youth and age. The characterizations and the symbolism illustrate that is not uncommon to become lonely and feel isolated with age. This is exemplified by the contrasts revealed between the two older men and the younger waiter. A Clean, Well-lighted Place Essay Words | 5 Pages. The main character in "A Clean, Well- Lighted Place," written by Ernest Hemingway, is the old man. The old man, who remains nameless throughout the short story, comes to the café for the light it provides him against the dark night.
- Reader Response to A Clean, Well-Lighted Place In , 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 Literary Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide. When you read for pleasure, your only goal is enjoyment. You might find yourself reading to get caught up in an exciting story, to learn about an interesting time or place, or just to pass time. Maybe you’re looking for inspiration, guidance, or a reflection of your own life.