A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway

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What is Hemingway's attitude toward his characters in  "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" and how is it revealed?

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Perhaps Ernest Hemingway, in his unstated way, merely portrays the young waiter as the typical youth who is so full of life and the desires of life that he does not yet recognize the void and the absurdity of life.  It is when one is an old man, alone, that he becomes, then, much more aware of life.  As death draws near, the older men realize what little their lives have held.  Alone, each must listen to his thoughts; alone he must admit "It was a nothing that he knew too well."  Hence, the parodic prayer: 

Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada nour nada and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada;pues nada.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would agree with #4. As hard as it is to identify Hemmingway's attitude is, as #5 points out, I think that from what we know of Hemmingway's own life and his own sense of despair and insignificance, we can see that the narrator shows more sympathy for the older characters, the old, drunk man, and the older narrator, than he does for the younger waiter who wishes that the old man had killed himself so he could get to bed sooner. In addition, I think that the older waiter's understanding and empathy for those that need cafe's as a refuge against their sense of despair and loneliness, and the way that he is blind to how he himself is lonely, makes him worthy of most sympathy.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It's tricky to say what Hemingway's attitude is, unless you assume the narrator is Hemingway's voice. Hemingway took two narratorial approaches. Sometimes, as in the Spanish Civil War stories, the narrator is clearly Hemingway. Other times, as in the Nick Adams stories, the narrator is a persona and not Hemingway. If examined from both perspectives, one might say that the narrator has a sympathetic, compassionate, understanding attitude toward each of the three character, even toward the impetuous young husband who is dissatisfied with getting home to his wife at 3 a.m. One might also say that, if the narrator is Hemingway's voice, Hemingway has an attitude of particular empathy (as well as sympathy) toward the drunken old man; of deeply understanding compassion for the old insomniac waiter; and of nostalgic good will toward the waiter with the wife.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I agree.  Hemingway is clearly more sympathetic to the older characters in the story.  The young waiter is eager to leave, rushing the old man and...

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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