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"A Clean Well-Lighted Place" Summary, Characters, Themes & Setting

A Clean Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway

“A Clean Well-Lighted Place” is considered one of the finest pieces of art which is written by Ernest Hemingway in 1926, but it was established for the first time in 1933 in “Winner Take Nothing” that is considered as a collection of short stories. Generally as the rest of Hemingway’s short stories, "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story deals basically with some specific situation related to the miserable life of human, loneliness, isolation, and the uselessness of life. Hemingway was succeeded widely to reflect a lot of different issues which may not be imagined that it could be enrolled through this short story. Here are some of the main points of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story which have to be mentioned in order to illustrate the different issues that were mentioned in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story. Some of these major points are represented in the following elements:

Setting of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place":

1- Place: Most of the events took place in front of the café.

2- Time: The time of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story was in 1926, at night of the day.

3- Weather Condition: It was stormy and cool weather.

4- Social Conditions: Most of the events are related to ordinary persons like the waiters, older and younger, the soldier and his girl, barman, and the old deaf man. All of the characters are represented the middle and lower layers of the society; the matter which plays a great role in drawing the whole picture for the miserable life and loneliness in which the individuals are living in.

5- Mood or Atmosphere: The atmosphere or mood of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story’s characters is ranged between the bright and dark. Some of the characters were cheerful like the younger waiter who still sees the life wonderful. On the opposite side, the most of characters were not pleased because they feel that life is useless; in addition to the stability of feeling with the loneliness and uselessness of life.

Types of Characters in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place":

As we mentioned before, there are two essential meanings for the word “character”. The two types could be represented in the person in a work of fiction, and the characteristics of a person. "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story deals with the second meaning which could be reflected in the characteristics of a person because in this type the author focuses on the characterization in which he has the ability to describe the physical appearance, the characters’ feelings, thoughts, and even their dreams.

During "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story, there are a lot of different characters which could be used in order to reflect the change between the personalities and how they are dealing with the changed situations of their life which are changed between better and worse. In "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story, we can see three important types of character which could be represented in the rounded, slat, and static characters. The old man character is related to the type of rounded character because most of the events of the story were related to the old man and the full description for his physical, social, and emotional characteristics. On the other side, the static type of character is associated also with the old man because he was always drunk; the matter which was mentioned on the tongues of the waiters about his regularity in coming day after day to the café.

The flat character was also mentioned in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story when the author was previewing the rest of the characters. One of those characters was represented in the barman, the younger waiter, and the soldier with his girl in the street. The concept of flat character does not mean that it has no importance in the course of events because the author use like this type in order to support the events of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story; besides the different behind purpose that is represented in showing the prefund feelings and emotions of the era.

Summary of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place":

The author started the events with focusing on the alone old man who is sitting on chair in café at night. There are two waiters who were concerning with watching the old man to make sure that he will pay for the drink before leaving the place. They started with talking about the situation of the old man, specifically the incident of his committing suicide few days ago. 

One of the waiters believed that there is no reason for trying to kill himself because simply he is a rich man. The argument between the two waiters was disturbed by the soldiers and his girl walking in the street after all, the old drunk man paid for the drink and left the café with two waiters’ eyes watching his movement in order to make sure that he will be safe and he will never try to kill himself again.

The waiters was busy most of time with talking about the old man and his trials to kill himself over and over; the matter which makes the younger waiter wondering about the insist of the old man to kill himself in spite of having a lot of money that can keep him happy for a long time. The younger waiter wished to see the old man leaving because this will give him the opportunity to leave early and go to his wife. 

Both of the waiters were talking about life and wondering about the situation of the old man because they see that there is no need for killing himself. After all, the younger waiter went to his wife and left the older waiter who was decided to continue his thinking about the old man and the other social problems which are associated with the new life. 

After long time which was spent by the old waiter in thinking about the life issues and matters that are associated with the miserable side of life, he was decided to stop thinking about all of these matters because he was believed finally that feeling could be from insomnia, common problem.

Point of View in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place":

According to the common style of the Ernest Hemingway, he always concerns with showing the miserable aspects of individual’s life. Life is full of a lot of different and changed situations which reflects the changed emotions and feelings in order to show the difference between individuals and their characters according to their environments and the techniques which are used according to the situations. The author succeeded in conveying the whole picture with using simple words in order to convey the different feelings between cheerful persons who like and admire his life; on the opposite side there will be that individual who was forced to live in the dark side of the world; the matter that makes him always thinking about death because of the peace which could be collected after death. In my point of view, we are the first responsible to make ourselves happy and optimistic. There are many different ways which make the individual happy; but the difference is related to the individual’s desire to make himself happy or not.

Themes of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place":

There are a lot of themes which could be related to "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story by direct and indirect ways. Some of these themes are represented in the following:

1- Dissatisfaction Theme:

This in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" story could be related to the unhappiness and discontent, which are associated mostly to the great number of Ernest’s works.

2- Mortality Theme:

This matter was clear basically in most of the story events according to the mentioning of author’s naming for the characters of the story older and younger waiters, and the old man. Focusing on the age is one of the techniques which could be used by the author in order to show mortality.

3- Drug and Alcohol Theme:

The author concerns with showing the drunk old man as a kind of stable condition. The author like this theme to show that the alcohol or drugs could be used as a way to make the individual to escape from the sufferings of the miserable life.

"A Clean Well-Lighted Place" Summary, Characters, Themes & Setting

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