A Clean, Well-Lighted Place


The old man, who we will call the "Gentleman,"-- to keep the confusion minimal between the old man and the old waiter -- in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" cannot be happy without his wife. The two waiters represent the Gentleman?s battle of his inner consciousness. The waiters portray the demons of the Gentleman?s personal heaven and hell. We recognize this by Hemingway?s use of characterization. Hemingway never identifies a particular part to the extended dialogue, because ultimately it is one stream of consciousness (the Gentleman?s). This reveals everything is nothing to the old man; though he has money now (everything) he has lost his wife (nothing).

The Gentleman experiences purgatory, in a spiritual sense, on Earth through the waiters. The waiters ? young and old ? represent a part of the Gentleman. The young waiter represents the Gentleman in his youth by having confidence and inexperience. The old waiter is just coming out of middle age and even though the old waiter is poor he still understands that the money doesn?t matter. Also, the Gentleman can relate to the old waiter because he doesn?t believe money is significant either. So, the more the old man drinks the more these images of his inner self come out. Every night the Gentleman thinks what it would be like to be able to go home to his wife he had once been with and how the clean and pleasant café is a waste of his time. The younger waiter shows this when he says, "I want to go home to bed" and "He (the Gentleman) can buy a bottle and drink at home." Also, the two waiters go back and forth discussing money. The young waiter thinks that if the Gentleman has plenty of money he shouldn?t have any problems. On the other hand, the old waiter understands that either way, if you have money or if you don?t, you still are lonely. Then the young waiter says that the café is a "waste of time" and how he "hates to stay out until 3:00a.m." The old waiter says that the café is a place to come and ease your pain. The two waiters conflict shows that the Gentleman goes through pain and torture (purgatory) while at the café every night drinking.
Purgatory is a place or state of temporary suffering or "a place or state of punishment wherein according to Roman Catholic doctrine the souls of those who die in God's grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven," according to Miriam-Webster Dictionary. When you start to bring in the spirituality of the matter (Heaven and Hell) then you can understand the Gentleman?s position and some of the actions he takes. Only Catholicism deals with purgatory. We start to see this matter unravel when the Gentleman?s personal heaven establishes itself.
The Gentleman?s personal heaven is shown through the young waiter. The young waiter is tired of waiting until 3:00a.m. when his shift is over to go home and see his wife. Actually, this is the Gentleman talking because he is conflicting internally with his inner demons (the waiters). The Gentleman wants to go home to his wife, but as we know he does not have one because she has passed away. The Gentleman has been wanting all along for the feeling of youth, confidence, and a job. The thing is, the Gentleman cannot have this and all of his conflicts arise again and start the conflicting circle.
The Gentleman?s hell is shown through the old waiter. The old waiter would rather go to the bodegas, which is hell, than go home. The old waiter is the inner side of the Gentleman that the Gentleman doesn?t want, but accepts the position he is in. So, we start to see where the Gentleman is leaning towards. The old waiter would rather go to the bodegas because he has no wife or significant reason to go home and the Gentlemen agreed. Also, it was stated in the text "the Gentleman tried to commit suicide by hanging himself". He was tired of suffering, because of not having his wife. Then we see the "Nada" speech that includes two prayers. One was the Lords prayer and when putting "nada" in the text tells us that the Gentleman had nothing to feel good