A Literary Analysis On Ernest Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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The Cafe: A Literary Analysis on Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well- Lighted Place" By Sarah Culver Jesse Doiron ENGL 1302.48F 11 November 2014 The Cafe: A Literary Analysis on Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well- Lighted Place" Ernest Hemingway's short story, "A Clean Well-lighted Place" is about an old man whom sits in a brightly lit and clean cafe sipping brandy, until the wee hours of the morning. He sits alone, never speaking to anyone, except for the waiter, to tell him "Another Brandy."(152) The two waiters of the cafe converse amongst themselves about the old man: one waiter shows empathy, while the other makes impatiently crude remarks. Hemingway uses his famous iceberg theory, which he is known for. He writes minimal…show more content…
More than half of the story is the conversation between the two waiters. Hemingway writes the conversation without specifying who is saying what to whom. However, even without this specification, he gives such a clear representation of the men's characters through their conversation that the reader knows exactly who's remarks are who's. The men speak in very choppy and incomplete sentences, making the conversation feel very unemotional. However, as the reader continues reading, they will be able to see the true depth, especially within the older waiter's words. Repetition is another literary element Hemingway uses to get his point across. The words "nothing and nada," are repeated throughout the entire story, reiterating the theme of nothingness. Also, "the old man sits" and "shadow of the leaves" are mentioned more than once. Each of the phrases reverberates the loneliness felt by each of the older men. The symbolism and setting are one in the same in this story. Hemmingway uses the "clean well-lighted place" to represent the light of day. The cafe represents a pure and calming place to escape the void of nothingness night brings. The old man is able to drink at this place and still keep his dignity, because he is not being dirty or sloppy, which is usually found in a bar. The clean and well-lit aspects suggest that his act of getting drunk in this place is merely a way to be in the light, instead…show more content…
Hemmingway suggests that life means nothing and that there is nothing such as, God. We are insignificant and our existence means absolutely nothing. The two older men struggle greatly with the void of nothingness in their own lives, while the younger man, as he states, "I have confidence. I am all confidence," the older waiter replies, "You have youth, confidence, and a job," the older waiter said, "You have everything." For this reason, the younger waiter is fulfilled and doesn't understand the angst that loneliness can cause. The true desperation of the older man is told in the first part of the story, in which he tries to hang himself to escape is meaningless existence. Both men have given up all hope in finding meaning in their life, thus leaving them to forever battle their existential depression. "If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. –Ernest

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