- Theory of Short Fiction (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
- Ernest Hemingway (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
- Ernest Hemingway (Dictionary of World Biography: The 20th Century)
- Ernest Hemingway (Identities & Issues in Literature)
- Ernest Hemingway (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
- Ernest Hemingway (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
- Ernest Hemingway (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
At a glance:
- Author: Ernest Hemingway
- First Published: 1933
- Type of Work: Existential Short Story
- Genres: Short fiction, Naturalistic literature
- Subjects: Suicide, Obsession, Death or dying, Waiters or waitresses, Life, philosophy of, Old age or elderly people
- Locales: Spain
The basic situation is that of two waiters--one older, one younger--sitting in a bar late at night, waiting for their last customer, a deaf old man, to leave. Most of the action consists of the dialogue between the two waiters in which the older waiter is sympathetic with the old man, while the younger one is impatient to get home to his wife.
The subject of the dialogue revolves around the knowledge one of the waiters has that the old man tried to commit suicide the previous week.
When the old man finally leaves, the older waiter, identifying with the old man, engages in a conversation with himself. He knows that the old man wanted to stay in the bar because it was clean and well-lighted, and that what the old man feared was not anything particular but rather a nothing. The old waiter emphasizes his own nihilism by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, in which for certain words he substitutes the Spanish word for nothing--nada: “Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name....”
The story is difficult, not only because the dialogue is confusing and the plot minimal, but also because the philosophic idea that underlies the story is a complex existential one. The old waiter knows that nothingness--the sense that there is no God or external value in the world--is the only ultimate reality. The clean, well-lighted cafe is a little island of order in the midst of the nothingness of reality; such concrete actualities constitute the only meaning that remains.
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- What is the point of view of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place?"
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