In "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," what would be the possible conversation of the two waiters after the old man left?Imagine the old man left the cafe. What would be the two waiters talk about?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The clues to what they probably would talk about are found in the story. The young waiter is rude, impatient with the old man, and quite sure of himself in his thinking and view of life. In contrast, the old waiter is patient and understanding. He understands why the old man lingers at the cafe and "needs" the light. The old waiter is far wiser than his young counterpart.

Based on these developments in their characters, the reader might well expect their conversation to reveal these traits further. The young waiter would want to close the cafe immediately to go home to his wife, once the old man leaves, and the old waiter would want to delay closing because he, like the old man he understands so well, needs the light of the cafe. They might possibly continue their conversation about the old man, even after he has left, since his presence had been a conflict between them.

It is not likely that the old waiter would try to make the young one understand very much about life because what the old waiter has come to understand is difficult to express and can only be learned through experience. It is also not likely the old waiter would talk about himself and his own empty existence because it is too personal and too painful to share, especially with someone like the young waiter who, in his selfishness and arrogance, lacks empathy for others.

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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