How might one compare and contrast Ernest Hemingway's story "A Clean, Well Lighted Place" and with William Faulkner's story "The Bear"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Anyone reading Ernest Hemingway’s story “A Clean, Well Lighted Place” side-by-side with William Faulkner’s story “The Bear” might be struck by a number of similarities and differences, including the following:

  • Both works deal with young people who have a lot to learn, but Ike McCaslin seems to learn more in “The Bear” than the young waiter does in “A Clean, Well Lighted Place.”
  • Ike matures more than the young waiter does, partly because Ike is more willing to learn from persons older than he is.
  • Both Ike and the young waiter have “father figures” in their stories (Sam in the case of Ike; the older waiter in the case of the young waiter), but Ike seems more open to instruction than the young waiter is.
  • A bond forms between Ike and Sam despite their different racial backgrounds, but the young waiter seems far less willing to move beyond his own narrow, limited perspective.
  • Ike learns valuable lessons about humanity’s place in the universe, but the young waiter seems far less open to such learning.
  • The young waiter seems far more selfish and uncaring than Ike, as when he says to an old deaf man who lingers too long in the café where the waiter works,

"You should have killed yourself last week."

It is hard to imagine Ike ever being so callous and cruel.


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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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