illustrated portrait of American author Ernest Hemingway

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Compare and contrast The Old Man and the Sea and "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place".

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Both "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" and "Soldiers Home" present the tragic essence of life in a way that is similar because in each work the protagonists find it necessary to detach themselves from society so that they can maintain some sort of honor.

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The Old Man and the Sea and "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" are alike in focusing their attention on the dignity of a poor, elderly man. In Old Man, this is Santiago, who fights the good and shows his manhood in bringing the giant marlin to shore even though the sharks manage to eat all its flesh. He shows what it is to live with courage and integrity and that it is how one lives, not what one gains, that matters.

Similarly, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" shows that having a clean, well lit cafe where he can sit and drink in peace is important to allowing an old man to live in a decent, dignified way. While the younger of two waiters wants to shut the cafe so he can go home, saying the old man could go to a bar, the older, wiser waiter knows it is important to allow the man his time in the quiet, clean cafe because what matter is how one lives, not simply gaining a drink in a dirty, crowded place.

The two works differ in that being a short story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" does not offer the depth of character study that emerges in The Old Man in the Sea. Furthermore, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" shows the old man character from afar, with the older waiter as the point-of-view character. The older waiter is a focal point and is revealed as compassionate in his sensitivity to the needs of another. In contrast, Old Man is told from Santiago's point of view and primarily gives us access to his thoughts, not those of an observer.

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What are the similarities between The Old Man and the Sea and A Clean Well Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway?

Some very marked contrasts exist between The Old Man and the Sea and "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway.

Santiago, in The Old Man and Sea, is characterized by hope. He hopes to catch the big marlin even though it has been over eighty days since his last catch. He faces life bravely, and even though the marlin is eaten by the sharks, Santiago remains undefeated. He is a Christian character and asks God for help during his battle with the big fish. Santiago is the Hemingway hero who illustrates grace under pressure. That is, even though he fights the marlin and eventually loses it, he remains calm and undefeated even in the light of what appears to be failure.

On the other hand, the old man in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," has given up hope. In fact, he has attempted suicide. Like Santiago, he no longer has a wife and is alone except for his niece. He spends his nights drinking in an attempt to escape his solitude, and he is characterized by defeat. His only companions are the two waiters who are paid to serve him. The older waiter understands the old man's need for a clean, well-lighted cafe. The younger waiter has a wife and wants to go home to her, having no patience for the old man. Unlike Santiago, the old man's life is filled with the darkness of nothingness.

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What are the similarities between The Old Man and the Sea and A Clean Well Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway?

Both men live alone; they have no living wives.  The old man in the Well Lighted Place, according to the old waiter, is a widower, and he drinks there alone, out of despair.  Santiago is also a widower, but he has a daughter who checks in on him from time to time.

Both men are on the opposite ends of heroism.  The old man in the Well Lighted Place is a heroic drunk, while Santiago is a heroic fisherman and a Christ-figure.  He even has a disciple: Manolin.

Both men suffer quietly.  The old man in the Well Lighted Place suffers quietly, neatly, hardly spilling a drop of his drink, symbolic of his resignation and angst.  Santiago also suffers alone on the boat, trying to fend off the sharks in order to save his prized marlin.

Both men confront the unknowable.  The waiters in the Well Lighted Place speak of "nada"--nothing and nothingness.  This is the existentialism of Sartre, who found existence in a Godless universe problematic.  Santiago likewise attempts to fathom the depths of the sea, and his brother marlin rises from its majestic depths only to be devoured by sharks.

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What are the similarities between Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-lighted Place" and "Soldiers Home"?

In both short stories, Hemingway captures the tragic essence of life. In "A Clean Well-Lighted Place," the older waiter whose sympathies lie with the old man point to the existential condition of a man whose life has been simplified to "nada"--nothing with meaning--and he must struggle to find some light in the darkness of nothingness. He does this by finding a place that is clean and well-lighted where he can be with others.  There, too, he can display good form and conduct. Certainly, the old man with whom the waiter commiserates displays good conduct as he sits in the cafe and "drinks without spilling."

Similarly, the wounded Harold Krebs, who has returned from World War I to his home in Oklahoma finds that he no longer can relate to his family. Also, when "[A] distaste for everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies he had told," Krebs wants to leave town. Furthermore, he finds the girls in town "too complicated." For, they, too, require certain lies and it "wasn't worth it. He did not want any consequences."  Krebs knows that he can no longer talk to the girls because the world in which they exist is not the same as the world he inhabits. 

So, Krebs, sensing the tragic essence of life, tries to "keep his life from becoming complicated." So, he packs his things to travel to Kansas City and goes one more time to watch Helen play indoor baseball.  In Kansas City Harold can maintain some sort of honor and balance in his life by becoming detached.

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