What Comes with Age What comes to mind when you think of life? Do you view life with an ever go lucky viewpoint and are you happy and content? Are you an optimist? Or do you think life is a means to and end with nothing to look forward to but depression and sorrow. In Earnest Hemingway’s story “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” Hemmingway makes the point that when you get older there is nothing but desperation and sorrow to live for. He does this by showcasing the story between a younger and an older waiter working late at night in a well-lit cafe where the only customer in the cafe is a very old deaf man getting drunk by himself.
The story illustrates through characterization and verbal irony what it means to deal with the harsh reality that everything we are and everything we do is empty. Hemmingway presents two kinds of characters, those that are unaware of the emptiness of life and those that are familiar with it. He does this by focusing on three main characters throughout the short story; an old man, a younger waiter, and an older waiter where each has a subtly different outlook on life. At the beginning of the story we meet the old man who is sitting at a bar drinking a brandy just watching the branches of a tree outside.
The old man is lonely and drinks by himself. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol. The old man attempts to commit suicide because he is in despair. He tried to commit suicide by hanging himself with a rope but his niece who takes care of him cuts him down. He is in despair and feels unwanted because he is old. His old age shows physical imperfections on his body such as his hard of hearing. He has no one to go home to, and finds comfort drinking in lit places, then home by himself. He is very lonely because his wife died and he has no one to go home to and talk to about his problems or just to keep him company.
The old man is also in a good financial position, but regardless of money, he has no will to keep on living. The old man’s deafness signifies a physical and mental isolation from the rest of the world. The younger waiter only cares about going home to his wife and going to bed so he can go to sleep. He seems to think his time is more valuable than the old mans which is ignorant to think since who’s time is really better than someone else’s? In the story the two waiters mention that the old man is in despair. When asked what the old man was in despair about the young waiter replies “Nothing,” because “He has plenty of money. This is a typical ignorant sentiment shared by youth who believe that money somehow provides happiness thus a meaningful life. The younger waiter does not show any sympathy to the old man or try to understand his feelings. The younger waiter is very insensitive and only thinks about himself. His attitude towards older people is very harsh and he never stops to think that one day he to might be old and lonely. The older waiter works at the cafe along with the younger waiter but seems to be more aware of the old deaf man’s feelings.
He doesn’t have anyone to go home to at the end of the night and he doesn’t mind working at all hours of the night. The older waiter identifies with the old man because he himself has nowhere to go after work. The older waiter himself cannot find a clean well-lighted place of his own to pass the night. The older waiter is offended by how the young waiter treats the man when he decides to refuse serving the man another drink. This is demonstrated when the older waiter says “Why didn’t you let him stay and drink? The older waiter has a realistic understanding of the significance of “nada,” in this world and it actually keeps him up at night. He comes to the realization that life is emptiness, that a man’s life means nothing and that his existence signifies nothing to himself, nothing to others and nothing to the universe. One of the most important topics of this story has to do with loneliness. The older waiter and the old man are very lonely. They both would like to stay at the cafe to escape from reality. Whereas the younger waiter is in a rush to get home because his life and reality isn’t filled with loneliness.
He has a wife to go home to and he has youth, confidence and a job. The older waiter is very much like the old man except he has a job. The old man feels like he has nothing to live for other than getting drunk, however, life is not found in a bottle of alcohol. Life is found in experiences and relationship and alcohol hinders these experiences and relationships. This story also talks about other topics including death, futility, and meaninglessness. Hemingway shows these topics throughout most of the words and actions of the older waiter.
Life is inherently meaningless and leads inevitably to death, and the older one gets, the clearer these truths become and the less able one is to impose any kind of order on one’s existence or maintain any kind of positivity in one’s outlook. In Ernest Hemmingway’s “A Clean Well-Lighted” Place one learns that life seems to get worse with age. Young people seem to be happy and content and think that they themselves will never grow old. The older one gets the closer the realization is that life is not worth living since it is filled with emptiness and despair.