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

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At the beginning of Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," the two waiters are discussing the old man's suicide attempt. It is then that they see the soldier.

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

This is the only time that the soldier is mentioned in the story. One of the waiters says that he is likely to be picked up by the guard, presumably for being out after curfew, or with a girl, or both.

Although he appears only fleetingly, the soldier has a definite symbolic value. He represents all the young people, busy with their own lives and desires, who have no need of the cafe. The younger waiter is a man of approximately the same type, but he is employed to work at the cafe, though it has no emotional significance for him. For the older waiter, however, as well as for the old man drinking brandy, the cafe has a spiritual role, as an oasis of light and order in a...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 814 words.)

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on December 31, 2019
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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on October 24, 2019
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