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Age and Its Effects in a Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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Age and its Effects
Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-lighted Place” deals with the correlation between youth and age. Throughout the story, the symbolism and characterization prove that it’s not out of the ordinary to feel isolated and lonely with age. This is shown through the book by examining the two older men and the young waiter. The older men are represented as lonely, isolated humans; they feel no purpose in their lives. The two older characters share a sense of despair and it makes perfect sense for them to pursue a life in a direction where there is a clean well-lighted place. That clean well-lit place may be exactly what the two men need to have a meaning in their life. The younger waiter is a tad bit different in the sense that he is excited and impatient to move on with his life. The waiter being ready to move on shows no sympathy for the old man. Since the mindsets of the two characters are completely opposite, the waiter doesn’t respect the old man because he doesn’t understand his point of view. The only one who somewhat understands the old man is the older waiter. He provides the same mindset as the old man and can sympathize with him since he understands what his mind is going through. It is evident that the older men have a different approach to appreciating and comprehending the importance of life. Hemingway incorporates symbolism of the light and darkness to help understand the life of the characters in the story. The well-lit café has a deep value and meaning to the older men compared to the younger waiter. The café provides a comforting, stable environment where people who are feeling lost can feel a sense of dignity. The darkness represents a series of feelings such as loneliness, scariness, and intimidation of death. As Hemingway portrays, the well-being of humans changes as they progress through life and age and so does their appreciation of the world. He implements this with his use of symbolism and characterization. Hemingway makes the young waiter seem to be a conceded, impatient individual. He feels he is ready to move on to bigger and better things in life, but rarely thinks about anyone but himself. His vision and way of life is much different than the older waiter and the old man. Money is important to the young waiter and that causes him to be blinded about bigger aspects of life. ‘Last week he tried to commit suicide,’ one waiter announced. ‘Why?’ ‘He was in despair.’ “What about?” “Nothing.” “How do you know it was nothing?” “He has plenty of money”(111). When the discussion of suicide came about, the young waiter exclaims that the older man has money so there shouldn’t be any reason to have thoughts on suicide. The young waiter is very naive in that money doesn’t create happiness. He feels he’s superior since he is confident in himself. So far in his life, he has yet to be disappointed and has many years ahead of him to endure. The young waiter has no empathy for the old man and exclaims how he would hate being old because it is a nasty thing: “You should have killed yourself last week” (111). The older waiter, on the other hand, can sympathize with the old man. He also feels himself as worthless and lonely since he hasn’t accomplished anything significant in his life. Hence the two older men could relate to one another. Unlike the young waiter, the older waiter isn’t conceded and notices all aspects of life and how it can affect one’s day-to-day life. As the older waiter ages, it effects him negatively, but not in the same way as it did for the old man. His life for the most part wasn’t successful. He was neither married nor rich. Not being able to find a significant other or have the amount of income that will sustain his perfect lifestyle has affected him tremendously. As stated in the literary article, Colburn believes the same reciting, “Since the old waiter by reciting his Hail Mary with the word nada in it shows his fear that there is no organization that will save his soul…”(Colburn 241). It’s evident that the older waiter has no guided path that is going to lead him to where he wants to be. As the story continues, the older waiter wants to save his soul but isn’t sure how too. Although he isn’t happy, he still feels he isn’t ready to face death in the eyes. Hoping for better days, he continues to work at the café because at the moment he felt that was his purpose in life. When asked what he feels he is lacking in life he replies, “Everything but work” (Hemingway 112). It’s clear the mature waiter has many problems he’s facing as he ages, but rather than give up, he continues his lifestyle in hopes that something will change for him. With fearing death, the older waiter only sleeps during daylight. He believes the darkness is associated with death so it makes sense for him to stay up nights and find time to sleep during the day. Hemingway characterizes the older man to be a depressed drunk. Even though most people who are a drunken mess tend to be anti-hygienic, Hemingway makes sure to make the old man appear clean and positive while being drunk. It’s assured through the story that as the old man ages, it has a negative effect on him. His wife dies resulting in his grief, and no amount money in the world can change that. Regardless of the old man’s accomplishments, he has no more will power left in him to continue his life long journey. It’s not surprising as the old man attempts to commit suicide. The well-lit café’s warming and inviting environment provides the old man a place where he can feel comforted. He can go to the café, get drunk, forget to pay his dues, and still feel welcomed back anytime. The waiters that work while the old man came in know that if he was too drunk he tends to leave without playing. With that said, they always keep an eye on him. Hemingway does a great job of producing a concrete theme in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”. The theme of different ages and mindsets emerges throughout the story. All three main characters are in different age groups. Hemingway powerfully uses the characters to exploit the emotions and perspectives that went go with aging. He emphasizes that one’s life can have a long-lasting effect on their well-being and state of mind. Reiterating the fact that it isn’t wrong to feel lonely and defenseless as aging occurs, Hemingway makes it clear how different age demographics can shape an individual’s views. Thus, the older waiter and the old man have different views than the younger waiter. Hemingway does a great job showing that age has a great emphasis on human well-being.

Works Cited
Colburn, William E. "Confusion in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"" College English 20.5 (1959): 241-42. JSTOR. Web. 25 Feb. 2015. Lansing Community. Hemingway. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” Writing about Literature and Ideas. S.l.: Kendall Hunt, 2012. Print.…...

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