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Essay on A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway

Assignment id 1011736
Discipline Writing
Assignment type Essay
Words 1870
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There's a common exercise to evaluate one's perspective in life: take a glass fill it halfway and ask yourself, "Is this glass half empty or half full?" Choose depending on the way you see it, either half empty (hopelessness) or half complete (assurance). We all see the centered brim of water otherwise according to our private circumstances. The older guy in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" would see the glass as half empty. Why? Emptiness is what fills his soul. There's no satisfaction in having "plenty of money" and a household, but he discovers indulgence in emptying a literal glass of brandy every night somewhere he finds safe, like the well-lit café (167). Though the story is never clear about why this guy is so puzzled, the reader can understand how he is unable to leave the café. The identical theme applies for both waiters serving him -- one has a lifetime to live together with his wife, and the other lacks confidence and is one to "stay late at the café". One has found life, and the other has a lack of confidence and nothing to be proud of. Hemingway develops external symbolism through the setting in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" like purity and light/ darkness, and also a contrasting theme of lifelong fulfillment and temporary fulfillment. This café, possibly somewhere in Spain, is described as a place where those "who don't wish to go to bed" and those "who need a light for the night" are welcome (169). Rather than wallowing in pitiful circumstance at home, those who want hope are the ones that arrive at the café, as this place depicts a safe haven for the empty and gives hope to the hopeless, further exemplifying Hemingway's contrast of faith and discouragement in the story. Even as the two waiters converse, the reader sees th...

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