A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Questions and Answers
by Ernest Hemingway

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Who is the protagonist in Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"?

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American Heritage Dictionary explains protagonist as coming from the Greek word protagnists, which is the Greek combining form proto-, meaning first in rank or first in time, plus the root agnists, meaning actor. So, the definition of protagonist to work with, so as to recognize a protagonist, is that a protagonist is the character (or sometimes characters) who is the first in importance and, sometimes, the first presented. How does this fit in with Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"?

Hemingway starts by drawing attention to "an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves." While he is the first in time, being the first individual mentioned, he is not first in importance. He does,...

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krazykate | Student

I belive it is the older waiter, who do not have a name is the  protagonist.For the old man, and indeed, the older waiter, the café represents a refuge from their despair. It is a place where they can usually linger for as long as they please. For this reason, the older waiter prefers to keep the café open as long as possible in the event there is someone who will "need a light for the night."