The three characters of Hemingway’s short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” allow some reflection on the human condition. The old man is quite a blurred character; the hints to dramatic events of his past shed light on his routine search for oblivion until late at night and trigger the conversation between the two waiters. The young waiter looks at the world from a lens focused on his personal life. His only goal is to go back home to his wife, and he does not show any empathy towards the old drunk man. Moreover, his strong self-confidence prevents him from understanding the existential distress that drives men to drink, even wealthy and decent people like the old man. On the contrary, the older waiter has a more tolerant attitude to the old man and, by extension, to the people who need refuge to pass the night. He is even “reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the cafe (Kenney and Gioa 161).” Unlike his younger colleague, the old waiter lacks self-confidence and is himself part of that humanity that shuns the long lonely nights at home. Dark brings dark thoughts, not fearful or dreadful, but a sort of emptiness, a nothing that permeates the life of some. On his way home, the old waiter is aware that he will need to wait for the daylight to have some rest.
Kenney, Joseph X., and Dana Gioa. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, 8th ed., Pearson, 2017.
nd Writing, Compact Edition, MLA Update Edition, 8th ed., Pearson, 2017.