What does nada mean in Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place"?
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Spanish for nothing, nada in Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" represents the author's understanding of nihilism, the belief that life is without objective meaning. Without any meaning in his life, the old man has attempted suicide, but has been saved by others. Now that he must endure life, the old man stay late at the cafe seeking light from the darkness of nothingness--nada--to which he must return. Thus, he shuns his return to the darkness because in it he is alone with his thoughts, his despair, his isolation. Because he knows that the world has no real norms, rules, or laws, it is only the light that keeps him from thinking about this nothingness.
Likewise, the older waiter recognizes the futility of a life that is essentially meaningless. So, he tries to keep the cafe open and light for those others like him. After the cafe closes, the waiter stops for a drink at another place because he, too, is reluctant to return to the nothingness that awaits him in the dark. "He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep." Only the light makes him forget the nada.
Nad in Hemingway's A Clean Well-Lighted Place refers to the nothingness that surrounds the old mans life. There is nothing in his life which was why he attempted to commit suicide. But he was cut down for the sake of saving his spirit, leading to the distrust of the institution of religion in the speech with the Lord's prayer being replaced by nada. Showing the meaninglessness of religion.
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