A Clean, Well-lighted Place


Dark Against Light in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" 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. He stays late into the night, and sits "In the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light." The old man is deaf and finds comfort in the "difference" he feels inside the quiet café. The old man struggles with old age and the feeling of nothingness which is representative of the darkness outside of the café. The well-lit café represents order and cleanliness. Outside in the dark, a young soldier and a girl hurry along the streets. Apparently, the couple intend to go off alone. They symbolize the excitement that can go on in the night between two people. The old man is around eighty years old, and does not have a wife. He doesn?t experience this type of relationship in the dark. Rather, he finds company in the clean, well-lighted café. Although the only other two people in the café at the late hour are the two waiters, the old man finds it content. The two waiters comment that although he is "A good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying." The younger of the two waiters wants to go home. He has a wife and claims he never gets "into bed before three o?clock." He treats the deaf old man as if he were dumb. He speaks to him "with that omission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners." The young waiter knows that the old man tried to commit suicide last week, but feels no remorse for him. He is too preoccupied with closing the café to get home. It is not important to the young waiter that the old man has a clean place to stay. Unlike the old man, the young waiter says he has "confidence." "?You have youth, confidence, and a job,? the older waiter said. ?You have everything.?" He has no reason to hide from the dark. He like the soldier and girl, can find excitement in the dark. He is not lonely like the old man. The young waiter resents the old man because he does not want to sit in the café all night as he watches him get drunker and drunker. When the older waiter questions what the matter of one hour is to the younger waiter, the younger waiter responds that an hour is "More to me than him." The young waiter says to the older waiter that the old man can "Buy a bottle and drink at home." But then later agrees with the older waiter that it is not the same. The older waiter, on the other hand, feels sympathetic towards the deaf old man. He is not as old as the old man, but can comprehend with the aging process. He is not youthful like the younger waiter. He knows that the old man is lonely. That his wife has died and his niece looks after him. The older waiter understands that even though the old man has plenty of money he is alone in the world. He realizes that it is important to keep a clean, well-lit café open for people like the old man who can not sleep. The older waiter recognizes the difference in his café and that of a dark bar or bodega. He knows that "Light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order." He is "reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the café." The reader finds out at the end of the story that the waiter is like the old man in need of light and cleanness, when he goes to a bar after closing and comments that although "The light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished." The waiter blames it on insomnia, but he like the old man is alone. In a way, the company of the old man is good for him just as it is to the old man. He admits to the younger waiter "I am of those who