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Differing Perspectives Of Life In A Clean, Well Lighted Place, By Hemingway

1607 words - 7 pages

Differing Perspectives of Life in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" was written by Hemingway in 1933.  It details an evening's interaction between two waiters, and their differing perspectives of life.  Hemingway uses an old man as a patron to demonstrate the waiter's philosophies. Hemingway is also visible in the story as the old man, someone who society says should be content, but has a significant empty feeling inside. This essay will present a line-by-line analysis, with emphasis on the philosophies of the waiters.

            This story focuses on two waiters at a cafe in Madrid, and their differing outlooks upon life.  Their views are shown as they ...view middle of the document...

  The younger waiter quickly argued that the old man's justification for living should have been his money, and it is interesting to note that the younger waiter considers nothing else in his evaluation of the attempted suicide.

            As the two waiters sit at a table, a soldier walks by with a prostitute. The older waiter comments that they'll get stopped by the local guard, and the younger waiter replies "What does it matter if he gets what he's after?" Again, this shows the older waiter's awareness, and the careless attitude of the younger waiter. The old man signals the younger waiter over for another drink, and the waiter declines to server him because he feels that the man is getting drunk and doesn't want to get stuck waiting for him to finish.  The younger waiter then comments that the old man should have killed himself last week, and how the waiter is tired and simply wants to get to bed at a reasonable hour.  The older waiter, empathizing with the old man, grabs the bottle of brandy and pours a full glass for the old man.  This, again, reflects the respect that the older waiter has for the old man.  This is the first real hint that the older waiter has a lot in common with the old man. 

            As the older waiter takes his seat at the table with the younger waiter, the younger waiter comments about the old man's drunkenness every night.   The old man asks the younger why the old man would want to kill himself.  The younger waiter replies that he doesn't know why.  They discuss the incident, and the younger waiter asks who cut the rope that the man was hanging from.  The older replies that it was his niece, and explains that she probably did it our of fear for his soul. 

            The younger waiter questions the older about how much money the old man has, showing his assessment of what matters in life.  The young waiter also expresses his desire for the old man to leave, saying how he wants to get home to go to bed. This shows the younger waiter's self-centered approach. He says that he's got a wife waiting for him,  that old men are nasty, and that he old man has no respect for those that must work.  This lets the reader see that the younger man's concerns do not extend past himself.  The older waiter counters with the facts that this old man is always a gentleman whom enjoys a drink in their cafe, showing his compassion for the older man.

            At this time, the old man requests another drink, and the younger waiter attends to him and informs him that the bar is closing.  The old man eventually walks out after leaving a paltry tip for the waiter.  As the older waiter questions why the younger waiter closed the cafe early, the younger replies that he wants to go to bed.   The older waiter questions the value of the hour, and the younger waiter expresses that the hour is more valuable to him than to the old man.

            The younger waiter thinks that he insults the older waiter when he says...

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