In what way does existentialism influence "A Clean Well-Lighted Place"?

Asked on by dfrance

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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The story is about an older man searching for meaning in a world that for him is devoid of it. In telling the waiter about this, we learn what the waiter thinks, and through him interpret the world again. It is the waiter who thinks the famous words of the story, “Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada.”  “Nada” means “nothing” in Spanish, and so through these lines the waiter parodies “The Lord’s Prayer,” in doing so indicating that religion cannot be a source of meaning.  Existentialism is a philosophy that believes the universe is void of meaning except for what our actions might give it. Only through  what we do can we triumph over this lack of meaning, and that is the challenge of the old man:  to act and in doing so give meaning to his life.


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