Clean Well Lighted PlaceErnest Hemingway was born on July 21st, 1899. He was the son of Dr. ClarenceEdmonds and Grace Hall Hemingway. He grew up in a small town called Oak Park,Illinois.
Hemingway was brought up in a somewhat conservative household by hisparents who pushed the value of politeness and religion. It wasn’t until hebegan English classes in school that his writing talent began to shine. After hegraduated from high school Hemingway turned his back on university and hedecided to move to Kansas City. It was there where he got his first job as awriter. He was a reporter for the Kansas City Star. The Star was the first tointroduce to him the news writing format which demands brief, to the pointsentences and the smooth flowing of ideas.Order now
It seems that Hemingway adapted thisstyle to his fiction writng. Hemingway demonstrates this talent in a short storycalled “A Clean Well-Lighted Place”. When he was 19 Hemingway enlistedin the army. He was rejected due to a defective left eye.
He then turned to theRed Cross in which he became a second lieutenant. The Red Cross brought him tothe front lines of the war in Italy. It was here where he saw many disturbingsights which probably had a hand in shaping his character. After extensiveinjuries from the war, Hemingway returned unhappily to Oak Park.
The impressionleft on him by his participation in the war had greatly changed him. He beganliving at home again but refused to get a job, even when his mother ordered himto. Soon she kicked him out and he moved to Chicago. Here he made a livingwriting for the Toronto Star and working as a sparring partner for boxers.
Whilehe was in Chicago he met his first wife, the young and innocent Elizabeth HadleyRichardson. Soon the young couple were married and they moved to Paris. It washere where Hemingway encountered many of the greats, F. Scott Fitzgerald, EzraPound, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, John Dos Passos and Ford Madox Ford.
It wasStein who took him under her wing. She was first to point him in the directionof the simple declarative sentence, which was another great influence on hisstyle. It seems to me that it wasn’t until Hemingway developed an interest inbull fighting that the idea for “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” may havecome around. Bull fighting seemed to trigger a whole new interest in Spain. Theshort story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” was set in a small cafe inMadrid, Spain.
There is an old deaf man who sits alone on a patio, sippingbrandy. Together two waiters observe the old man who is their last customer. Theold man is comforted by the peaceful atmosphere of the cafe but the youngerwaiter wants him to leave. Hemingway may have seen himself as the older waiter,he was about thirty-five years old when this story was written. In the story theolder waiter comes from the stand-point that he is getting old and he does notreally have anything to show for life, no friends, not very much money, and noreal love. At this point in his life, Hemingway may have seen himself here.
“A Clean and Well-Lighted Place” originally appeared in a short storybook, To Have and Have Not. This is a good summary phrase for this story. Youhave happiness or you don’t, you have friends or lovers or you don’t, you havemoney or you don’t, and for those people who don’t, there must be a place wherethey can seek a false sense of comfort, like a quiet cafe in Spain. I feel thatHemingway might have been feeling lonely and unfulfilled when he wrote thisstory.
The cafe might have been a fantasy place where he may have liked to go tocomfort himself. It seems that he puts himself in the place of the older waiterwho really has nothing but his work. Hemingway probably felt that he had nothingbut his writing. There was an interesting part in the story that slants towardsa religious theme.
He writes, “It was nothing that he knew too well. It wasall a nothing and a men was nothing too. It was only that and light was all itneeded and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it buthe knew it all was nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name.
. . ” andhe goes on from there. It first seemed like gibberish to me but when I asked afriend who is fluent in Spanish, if “nada” was a word in Spanish shesaid, “sure, it means ‘nothing'”. I think he wants the story to flirtwith sacrilege by saying there’s only emptyness in the end. I liked this storybecause Hemingway is such an amazing writer.
He can make you think about hugethemes in the space of a short story. The dialogue is sparse yet he can stillcreate characters so vibrant it is like watching a movie. Hemingway’s shortstories are very well thought out. In the story there is also talk about the olddeaf man trying to commit suicide. This interests me because suicide seemed tofascinate Hemingway.
Earlier in life his father disgusted him by committingsuicide and then there is mention of it in the story. Hemingway may have feltthat suicide was the only way to deal with a problem. Sadly enough Hemingwaystarted suffering from mental problems later in life and he was admitted to amental hospital. There he was treated and released sometime later. Hemingwaycommitted suicide on July 2nd, 1962.