Since before recorded history, the main goal of much of human existence has been the constant battle to escape the darkness that pervades the world. From simple flint and tinder fires of the Paleolithic era to the neon massiveness that is modern day Las Vegas, humanity is always trying to light the world. One of Ernest Hemingway's most consistent, defining themes is humanity's struggle with darkness; primarily the darkness that is seated in the depths of our souls, rather than the darkness in the world around us. Many of Hemmingway's stories point to a consuming nothingness in peoples lives as the cause of much of this ominous despair and darkness. .
The phrase "nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada- in his short story "A Clean Well Lighted Place- both clearly and readily portrays Hemingway's feelings on this subject. This phrase and those that follow as Hemingway shamelessly rewrites the Lords Prayer combine seamlessly with Hemingway's subtly deep and very human characters, simple crisp diction, and quiet setting of a café in post World War I Spain to create the sorrowful despairing tone that so easily displays the overrunning theme of man's struggle to escape the creeping darkness in his own soul.
Hemingway's characters while remaining rather nondescript, are most certainly not flat, and are decidedly human and believable. The primary characters of the old man, and the two waiters: one young and one old, provide both a mouthpiece for Hemingway's intents and the key wards of the conflict that he uses to propel the story. The old man is described as being old and deaf, and rather fond of going to the café at night because it "now at night it was quite and he felt the difference."" And while prone to being drunk the old man remains clean and dignified. Even after consuming a good deal of brandy upon departing the café he is described as a "very old man walking unsteadily but with dignity.