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What besides insomnia makes the older waiter reluctant to go to bed? Comment especially...

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khushrenada | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 8, 2009 at 11:55 PM via web

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What besides insomnia makes the older waiter reluctant to go to bed? Comment especially on his meditation with its nada refrain.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 13, 2009 at 6:56 AM (Answer #1)

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The older waiter, like the old man who drinks alone at the cafe until late into the night, suffers from a condition far more profound than physical insomnia. His is a condition of the spirit. He lives each day enduring an overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation. He finds no meaning in his own life or in life itself. Like the old man with whom he identifies so strongly, the old waiter needs the light of the cafe to ward off the darkness which he must eventually confront each night. With the darkness, facing his loneliness and his sense of "nothing" can no longer be avoided.  Unlike his brash and arrogant young counterpart, the old waiter has lived long enough to know that at the end of the day, literally for some and figuratively for all, each man is alone.

The ironic "nada" prayer at the story's conclusion emphasizes the idea of "nothingness" which has functioned throughout the story as the main thematic motif. There is no God and there is no plan or meaning in the universe itself. Life cannot be understood; it can only to be endured. This theme of enduring life with grace and courage is fundamental in Hemingway's work.

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