Briefly explain what elements of Existentialism are in Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place"
In "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," there are existential overtones in the old man's search for the light and a clean café, the waiter's efforts to establish order by reciting the Lord's Prayer using the word nada repeatedly instead, and the exercise of discipline in his life.
Existentialism is a philosophy that is centered upon the individual's struggle to create meaning out of a meaningless world. The individual takes responsibility for his existence in society that is unnatural and arbitrary in its rules. Since there are many things that are irrational, the individual must create his own order through individual acts of will. In other words, the individual must decide how he will live.
In Hemingway's story, the clean, well-lighted café is for the old man an isle of order in the nothingness of his existence. His little routine of coming there helps to give some order as he starts a routine. This routine is what the older waiter understands; he tells the younger waiter that the light and cleanliness of the café are what the old man seeks. They are what provide some order and meaning in a meaningless world.
Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the café.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial