A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway

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

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The old solider symbolizes basic humanity: the need that any person has to enjoy the dignity of a clean, quiet, well-lit place. We learn that

the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference...

The two waiters on duty have contrasting attitudes toward the old man. One waiter is impatient with him, wishes he would leave, says he could go to another bar, and shows, overall, no empathy toward him. The other waiter understands that this old soldier represents humanity and should be treated with dignity. The other bars would force him to stand and would be crowded and chaotic.

The two waiters have the following conversation. The first waiter says,

This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling. Even now, drunk. Look at him.

The second waiter says,

I don't want to look at him. I wish he would go home. He has no regard for those who must work.

The story emphasizes that for humans in despair and facing "nada," or nothing (we learn the old...

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