What does the soldier in Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" symbolize?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"A girl and a soldier went by. The street light shone on the brass number on his collar.  The girl wore no head covering and hurried beside him."

In Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," an old man, a heroic drunk who neatly replaces his cup without spilling his drink, quietly sits in the clean, well-lit cafe that chases away his loneliness, if only for a time.  Fresh and clean and bright like an early part of the day, this cafe does not resemble the night of loneliness that the man must face when he goes home.  It is with the soldier's passing by the old man who sits in the shadows that the reader surmises that this soldier represents order and the dictates of time and Death with the numbers on his collar, for after he passes, the younger waiter comments, "The guard will pick him up" because the man has stayed at the cafe too long and become inebriated.

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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