The story "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway centers around a conversation between two waiters while working together in a Spanish cafe. They are discussing one of their regular customers, a quiet and dignified old man who comes to their cafe every evening. He runs up a huge tab which he pays for himself before he leaves. As the story continues the reader discovers that he has attempted suicide.
The younger waiter has become really annoyed and impatient with the old man, and all he wants is for the old man to go home and quit drinking. He doesn't show compassion or understanding for the old man at all. The older waiter is the exact opposite, as he understands despair only too well. He is really sad when the younger insults the old man for no reason at all, and then he closes the restaurant early, sending the old man away. He becomes so sad for the old man that he remarks to the young waiter:" You have youth, confidence and a job. You have everything". The old man on the other hand, has nothing no one to go home to, nothing to look forward to, no pleasure in his life except to be able to spend some time in "a clean well-lighted place". .
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After the young waiter leaves to go home, the older waiter continues to have a conversation amongst himself. "He understands the value of his cafe; when you have nothing else to live for, a place like that can be a small comfort against a huge, all - encompassing darkness of existence". Except for the warm glow of the cafe there is nothingness for the old man. It is an illusion but a necessary one for some people. It is too horrible to think about the nothingness all the time; and sometimes it is necessary to simply put it out of your mind and instead think of something lovely and warm, like the cafe.
The interesting part of this story is the way Hemingway manages to discuss the relationship between the young waiter with his life awaiting him, and the older waiter who is beginning to realize that there is nothing else to live for.