A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway

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Explain what (besides insomnia) makes the older waiter reluctant to go to bed and how it relates to his "nada" meditation.

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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...

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lit24 | Student

 The older waiter explains why he wants to keep the cafe open for some more time: "Each night I am reluctant to close up because there maybe someone who needs the cafe."

As one grows old and death draws near one becomes more and more painfully aware of the meaninglessness, the nothingness-nada- of life. Religion which is meant to be  a source of strength and comfort proves ineffective in the present situation.

 Hemingway reveals the thoughts of the older waiter through an interior monologue:"What did he fear? It was not a fear or a dread, it was a nothing he knew too well. It was all nothing and a man was a nothing too." A  feeling of numbness which is worse than the fear of death  overwhelms the older waiter and in a desperate attempt to overcome this feeling of numbness he tries to repeat the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary but ends up  repeatedly using the word 'nada' and 'nothing,' thus  foregrounding the ineffectiveness of these two prayers.

It is this overwhelming feeling of 'nothingness' which makes the older waiter sympathise with the old drunken customer. The well lighted cafe offers  a temporary refuge from this cruel nothingness which has already driven the old man to attempt  suicide.

The older waiter wants the cafe to remain open as long as is possible so that many other old men like the drunken old man and himself  can escape atleast temporarily  from this paralysing mind numbing 'nada.'

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