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I think that “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is a story about old age and loneliness. The old man at the bar waits until the cafe closes until he leaves, because he has no one to talk to. He stays at the café for as long as he can because he finds peace there. “Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the café.” The older waiter understands that the café is a solace for people, and in a way it is a solace for him as well, because he is lonely and does not want to go back home to bed.
This is important because it shows how some people find comfort in being alone, especially because they have no other option. On the other hand, we have the younger waiter, who does not show any consideration towards others. In fact, he even says aloud that he wished the old man had killed himself, because he knows the old man cannot hear him anyways.
“You should have killed yourself last week,’ he said to the deaf man.” He does not care how important the café is to anyone else, as he believes that the world revolves around him and nothing else matters. He forces the old man to leave, just so that he can go home to his wife. He does not consider how crucial this café is to this man’s life. Hemingway makes the difference clear between the person who understands and even shares the old man’s need for a place to be, and the person who doesn’t know or care about others.
This story made me feel really sad for the old man. He’s deaf, he has lost his wife, and has recently tried to commit suicide. He thinks that his life just isn’t worth living, and the only reason to continue on is to drink, and to sleep, and to drink again. Also, many people just don’t get him, like the younger waiter. Still, somehow, he manages to stay noble. “The old man stood up, slowly counted the saucers, took a leather coin purse from his pocket and paid for the drinks, leaving half a peseta tip. The waiter watched him go down the street, a very old man walking unsteadily but with dignity.” The old man suffers from insomnia, and the café is the only way to combat that, along with the feeling of emptiness that stems from having nothing to do. He can only drink, and drink more, to try to get rid of that feeling of emptiness.
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