A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Hemingway's story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Hemingway's story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place is arguably one of his best. It demonstrates his distinctive writing methods. The tale is a perfect illustration of an initiation story, a short story that centers on the main character learning something new that he had never heard of before. The elderly waiter, young waiter, and elderly waiter are the main characters in his tale. Hemingway uses a variety of literary devices in the tale to illustrate his themes of life as nothingness and the struggle to overcome despair as the characters deal with everyday struggles. The paper shall look into the employment of symbolism, motifs as well as his tone and writing style in its thematic interpretation and message conveyance.

One of the two themes in the novel is life as nothingness

The author suggests that life has no significance and that a person is an irrelevant speck in a huge ocean of nothingness. The older waiter shows this when he states "It was all a nothing and man was a nothing too." (382) He even replaces the Spanish phrase nada in the prayers, indicating that religion which often offers hope to people is also nothingness. Instead of praying with the real words of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven," the old waiter exclaims, "Our nada who art in nada."(383) He replaces Father and heaven which gives hope with nothingness (Hemingway, 1990). The young waiter, in contrast, is happy though in a hurry, not aware of any cause to be upset (Wei-wen, 2010). Along with the old man, old waiter also requires the late night cafeterias, the concept of nothingness is huge to them.

Second theme Hemingway is trying to convey the struggle to handle despair

The old man along with old waiter trying to deal with his despair that comes with the feeling of nothingness. They best approaches repress the despair that eliminates it. The old man had attempted to deal with despair in various ways unsuccessfully (Hemingway, 1990). He has money; however, it has not assisted him. His only ways to handle this despair is to sit in the well-lit cafeteria. He feels that he will not be only if he just sits there. The older waiter mocks his prayers by constantly using the world nada. He seems to show that religion cannot solve despair and his answer just like the old man is to spend time during the night at cafes (Hemingway, 1990). He is very specific on the cafe he loves; it ought to be well lit and hygienic. To him, bars and other entertainment spots do not eliminate despair as they are not well lit. The habitual sitting at the cafe and drinking aids them in tackling despair as it makes life predictable meaning that can control it, unlike nothingness that follows.

Motif; Loneliness

The author employment of motif of loneliness proposes that although many individuals are faced with despair, everybody ought to struggle alone. The old man with no wife is evidently feeling alone. The youthful waiter complaints of the old man not going home depict the different world the two are in. He says "He's lonely. I'm not lonely." (381) Loneliness to him is the main difference between them; however, he does not want to know why the old man is lonely or that some day he might have a feeling of being alone. He older waiter, though he does not express that he is lonely behave in the same manner as the old man. They sit in cafes at night (Hemingway, 1990). When he goes home, old waiter lies down assuming that he is suffering from sleeplessness. Even in his assertion, he wants company stating that, "Many must have it." (383) the concepts that he is not the only one in insomnia gives him the much-needed comfort.

Symbolism- Cafe

Another literary tool is the use of symbolism. Café signifies the opposite of nothingness. Its hygiene and good lighting show order and clearness while nothingness is disorganized, confusing, and gloomy. Since café is better than nothingness, the older waiter explains that it functions as a haven from despair experienced the people who have knowledge of nothingness. Since it is clean and well lit, despair can be managed or easily forgotten (Thomson, 1983). As the older waiter talks on nothingness, he states, "It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order." (382) Light and cleanliness can be a substitute one can run to in times of despair (Thomson, 1983). They aid in shelving the despair that comes with no having anyone to love or be anchored to anybody. So long as the clean, well-lit café is there, despair can be managed.

Tone of Writing

Looking at his tone of writing, the author does not use high drama. Hemingway's writing as he delivers his messages just like in his other famous works his prose style- straight to the point. He is journalistic and no-nonsense- details dialogue plainly and straightforwardly. The inexpressive recitation of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" permits the audience to really comprehend what the characters say (Wei-wen, 2010). In any case, acgreater part of the narrative is simply dialogue, interposed in a long clause of "nada nada nada." The audience is forced to give emphasis on the character's phrases, and deliberations and the author do not try to meddle with the audience's interpretation of things (Lodge, 1971).

Hardly ever does he place judgment on the characters. A case example is when the younger waiter says to the old waiter, "You should have killed yourself last week" (381), a different author may have tried to introduce adjectives to describe the young waiter was. Maybe "he said rudely or heartlessly." Hemingway leaves it plain, and unrepentant; 'You should have killed yourself last week,' he said." He contributes to the depressing viewpoint of this story rather than hearing of anguish of the old man recited well and poetically over numerous pages; he simply gets to the point. Its acute shortness makes the point powerful (Lodge, 1971). There is no description of the cafe nor does the audience know where it is, nonetheless, he succeeds in sketching out just enough on the story to generate a feeling of the setting for the audience.

Hemingway omits background information

Hemingway omits background information. He used the iceberg principle in the story where only the tip is noticeable on the page whereas the other part is left out. Hemingway never states which waiter is talking; he assumes such clarification is unimportant (Thomson, 1983). The key element is that the two waiters are talking about the old man. When the older waiter considers the concept of nothingness, Hemingway introduces a lot of pronouns never explaining what hey refer to. "It was all a nothing. . . . It was only that. . . . Some lived in it . . ." the lines might be confusing, because nothingness can never really be precisely described, regardless of the number of words used.

Deceptive Spacing

Hemingway additionally employs deceptive spacing of the narrative. He leaves the audience to follow what is happening without using any words. A case is that the only conversation between the two waiters is when the young waiter is serving the old man a drink and when he requests for another (Wei-wen, 2010). The author never states that the old man drank fast. The story can be read quickly, however, the scenes are not that fast. Author desists from using unimportant transitions. An example is older waiters left the cafe, mulled over the concept of nothingness and finished his prayer; there is no transition to show that he was walking (Thomson, 1983). Waiter's deliberation was the transition actually. When he wrote that the old waiter smiled and stood before a bar, the audience is supposed to comprehend that he had been on the move as he thought about himself.

Third Person Omniscient

Hemingway also employs Third Person Omniscient in the story. The audience has an advantage of understanding what is going on in the character's minds. People understand what is going on with the young waiter and old man, i.e. the young waiter is not really a bad person, but rather he is just in a hurry (Lodge, 1971). The audience also gets a glimpse of the old waiter's inner mind where the narrative is told.

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is a very interesting story

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is a very interesting story, however with Hemingway delivery, his direct to the point writing style it makes it even more fascinating. Readers are not lost the jargon of words used.


Hemingway, E. (1990). A clean well-lighted place (pp. 379-83). Creative Education.

Lodge, D. (1971). Hemingway's clean, well-lighted, puzzling place. Essays in Criticism, 21(1), 33-56.

Thomson, G. H. (1983). " A Clean, Well-Lighted Place": Interpreting the Original Text. Hemingway Review, 2(2), 32.

Wei-wen, M. I. (2010). Interpreting Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place From the Perspective of Cognitive Poetics. Foreign Language and Literature, 5, 006.

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