This perspective gives us insight into the human condition in that it reveals that life experience is worth something and that notion is something young people simply cannot grasp fully. The young are more confident because they have not experienced as many hardships. For example, the younger waiter is "all confidence" (96) while the older waiter is not. In fact, he can relate to the old man more than he would like to. He knows there is nothing worse than going home to nothing. The younger waiter wants to hurry home while the older waiter feels as if he is doing a good deed by providing a "light for the night' (97) for the old man any anyone that might be like him. The older waiter knows why the clean and bright cafe is appealing to the people that come around at night and he does not mind keeping the old man away from the darkness of the night a little longer. This loneliness is experienced only by the older men and it is something that cannot be conveyed to the younger waiter - not without experience.
Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is successful because Hemingway plays the young against the old. We are able to see two different perspectives and this helps Hemingway reinforce his theme of loneliness and despair by placing two characters that are almost opposite from each other in the same cafe. The young waiter his future ahead of him and sees no reason to dread anything. He is confident; he has a job and a wife. The older waiter understands that these are fleeting and there is no guarantee of our keeping them from one to the next and, before we know it, we are older. The contrast of these two mindsets works well in the story because Hemingway brings both of them back to the notion of nothingness. The younger waiter represents the type of selfishness that many young people possess simply because they cannot relate to the experience that life brings. In essence, he has nothing to offer either older man because he is impatient and only wanting to satisfy himself at the moment. He is so concerned with going home and going to bed, that he cannot see what the older waiter is trying to tell him about the nothingness of life in old age. The younger waiter is also necessary for the story because he helps us understand the depth of what the older men are feeling. The older waiter cannot express it to him regardless of how he tries. This is not simply something we read about in short stories; the old attempting to teach the young is something that happens everyday and they young generally have the same attitude as this young waiter just because he does not know any better. The story concludes in a way that also reinforces the theme of futility in that there is no answer to be found for the despair that these men experience. The older men are, in essence, alone in the world and while they can relate to one another from a distance, they will never be able to relate to the young.
Serious life issues become points of focus in Hemingway's short story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," captures the loneliness, despair, and futility that the two older men feel as they attempt to cope with their old age and the fears that come along with it. By placing two people separated by the gulf of years together, Hemingway can emphasize the significance of years and how that is not always the blessing we think it might be. The young waiter has no worries and cannot wait to go home and go to bed. This is the very thing that both of the older men dread because it brings to their minds the futility of life and nothingness of it all. The old men in this story wrestle with issues that cause them fear and anxiety and, as a result, the inability to even get one good night's sleep. In a few pages, Hemingway leads us down a path that demonstrates how old age can be for some and why the old behave as they do. The theme of despair is the only truth that seems to emerge from the lines.
Hemingway, Ernest. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," Literature: The Human Experience: Reading and Writing. Eds.…