A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
RESPONSE TO “A CLEAN WELL-LIGHTED PLACE”
The old man, who we will call the “Gentleman,”– to keep the confusion minimal between the old man and the old waiter — in “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” cannot be happy without his wife.The two waiters represent the Gentlemans battle of his inner consciousness.The waiters portray the demons of the Gentlemans personal heaven and hell. We recognize this by Hemingways use of characterization.Hemingway never identifies a particular part to the extended dialogue, because ultimately it is one stream of consciousness (the Gentlemans).This reveals everything is nothing to the old man; though he has money now (everything) he has lost his wife (nothing).
The Gentleman experiences purgatory, in a spiritual sense, on Earth through the waiters.The waiters young and old represent a part of the Gentleman.The young waiter represents the Gentleman in his youth by having confidence and inexperience.The old waiter is just coming out of middle age and even though the old waiter is poor he still understands that the money doesnt matter.Also, the Gentleman can relate to the old waiter because he doesnt believe money is significant either.So, the more the old man drinks the more these images of his inner self come out.Every night the Gentleman thinks what it would be like to be able to go home to his wife he had once been with and how the clean and pleasant cafe is a waste of his time.The younger waiter shows this when he says, “I want to go home to bed” and “He (the Gentleman) can buy a bottle and drink at home.”Also, the two waiters go back and forth discussing money.The young waiter thinks that if the Gentleman has plenty of money he shouldnt have any problems. On the other hand, the old waiter understands that either way, if you have money or if you dont, you still are lonely.Then the young waiter says that the cafe is a “waste of time” and how he “hates to stay out until 3:00a.m.”The old waiter says that the cafe is a place to come and ease your pain.The two waiters conflict shows that the Gentleman goes through pain and torture (purgatory) while at the cafe every night drinking.
Purgatory is a place or state of temporary suffering or “a place or state of punishment wherein according to Roman Catholic doctrine the souls of those who die in God’s grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven,” according to Miriam-Webster Dictionary.When you start to bring in the spirituality of the matter (Heaven and Hell) then you can understand the Gentlemans position and some of the actions he takes.Only Catholicism deals with purgatory.We start to see this matter unravel when the Gentlemans personal heaven establishes itself.
The Gentlemans personal heaven is shown through the young waiter.The young waiter is tired of waiting until 3:00a.m. when his shift is over to go home and see his wife.Actually, this is the Gentleman talking because he is conflicting internally with his inner demons (the waiters).The Gentleman wants to go home to his wife, but as we know he does not have one because she has passed away.The Gentleman has been wanting all along for the feeling of youth, confidence, and a job.The thing is, the Gentleman cannot have this and all of his conflicts arise again and start the conflicting circle.
The Gentlemans hell is shown through the old waiter.The old waiter would rather go to the bodegas, which is hell, than go home.The old waiter is the inner side of the Gentleman that the Gentleman doesnt want, but accepts the posit…..ion he is in. So, we start to see where the Gentleman is leaning towards.The old waiter would rather go to the bodegas because he has no wife or significant reason to go home and the Gentlemen agreed.Also, it was stated in the text”the Gentleman tried to commit suicide by hanging himself”.He was tired of suffering, because of not having his wife.Then we see the “Nada” speech that includes two prayers.One was the Lords prayer and when putting “nada” in the text tells us that the Gentleman had nothing to feel good about.The other was Hail Mary, which is only seen in Catholicism and all religions have a Lords prayer but Catholicism.He also feels that there is nothing to feel bad about.Basically, there is nothing left in life but death. So, if the Gentleman tried to commit suicide and talks of Hail Marys meaning nothing to him then we come to believe the Gentleman is looking for a way out even if it is the easy one, hell.We know he will go to hell because of the Catholic slurs.
Now, towards the end of the story the old waiter talks about being at the bodegas (hell) and ironically is giving the “nada” speech that is striking down upon religion.As interpreted, represents death in life.The old waiter (Gentlemans favored side) is he type who likes to stay out past 3:00 a.m. and go to the bodegas.This Gentleman is determined that he will end up in the bodegas, because he just cant take the suffering anymore.
The “nada” speech reinforces that the Gentleman has given up.We see this through the old waiter.The old waiter is telling the young waiter about life, which is the Gentlemans inner conflict.The old waiter gives two prayers, one being the Lords prayer, which says,
“Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada.Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada: pues nada.”
This quote/prayer shows the reader the Gentleman has given up.He has nothing to feel good about, no faith to follow, and is basically lost in every day life.Also, the old waiter gives another prayer says,”Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.”He now tells us that there is nothing to be ashamed of or feel bad about.He has nothing.This brings us back to the point about everything versus nothing.Ironically, he is giving this speech while in the bodegas (hell) and since he is in hell and praying it seems odd.So, because the Gentleman gives these two prayer speeches we can understand his pain and suffering.We can understand why he would take the old waiter, who he best relates to, and be happy with that decision.
Therefore, the Gentleman weighs out everything versus nothing every day of his life.He drinks and conflicts with his inner self.It gets worse and worse until he just cant handle the purgatory (inner suffering) anymore.Without his wife, the Gentleman has no purpose to him and would rather take the easy way out hell to ease his every day pain and misery.The Gentleman does have money, but without a reason for that money or the fact that his wife is not there he has nothing, which shows that he best relates to the old waiter.Again the old waiter is the Gentleman in present state and the young waiter is what the Gentleman would like to be.The Gentleman wants to have his wife back and his confidence back along with a meaningful job. He has given up on faith and between the two waiters of his inner personalities, he will follow the old waiter into the darkness and depths of his personal hell, showing us his death in life.