In Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," how do the old man and the younger waiter in the cafe help us to understand the character or situation of the older waiter?
We learn about the old waiter as we compare his reaction to the old deaf man with the reaction of the young waiter.
To the young waiter, the old man is nothing but an encumbrance who gets in his way of going home to his wife and his bed. The young waiter can only see life from the perspective of his own needs and desires. He says,
I wouldn't want to be that old. An old man is a nasty thing . . . . I wish he would go home. He has no regard for those who must work.
In contrast, the old waiter is able to put himself in the deaf old man's shoes. He doesn't want to hurry the old man, even though he, like the young waiter, would like to go to bed. The old waiter can put aside his own needs in order to serve the true needs of others. He would be happy to stay later because he knows how important a clean, well-lighted cafe is to an old man. He defends the old man against the younger waiter's insensitive insults:
This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling. Even now, drunk. Look at him.
(The entire section contains 2 answers and 590 words.)
check Approved by eNotes Editorial