Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-lighted Place- is characterized by two waiters and their individual response to the dilemma of "Nada- or nothingness. Each of the two waiters respond differently to the nothingness, and each feels it has a different impact on their lives. Hemingway presents this theme as it is a part of life of the time. The depression played a great role in the style of his writing, the "nada- presented is the emptiness of life. The younger waiter does not feel the nothingness, while the older waiter feels it in his life at all times.
The younger waiter does not feel the emptiness of life. He is content with every aspect, and all of the bad things in life are accepted. His inexperience with the world and its cruelty make him unaware of others, like the old man at the café, and selfish. He places himself before anything else and is only concerned with the present. The younger waiter in Hemingway's story states, "I have confidence. I am confidence- (143). The young waiter is obsessed with what affects him, and is completely oblivious to the truth. In Michael Adams critique of Hemingway's work speaks of the younger waiter by saying, "He is like many young people who think that they and their world are as they should be and always will be the same- (407). The young waiter only sees the importance of the presence, and sees no need in change, and thus, not "nada-. To illustrate his concern with the practical Hemingway uses the young waiter in the story, speaking of a soldier and a prostitute, he says, "He had better get off the street now. The guard will get him. They went by five minutes ago- (142). The young waiter sees that the soldier will get caught and into trouble should the guard see him, and realizes that he needs to be careful not to get caught. Thus, he proves that he is only concerned with the present, and not what a person can get. He sees right and wrong, and the consequences, but not the importance of what one person can do.