|Type of paper:||Essay|
|Categories:||Ernest Hemingway Literature review World literature Symbolism|
Symbolism denotes the representation of an idea in a non-superficial way which is beyond what is easily seen. The short story "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" by Earnest Hemingway applies symbolism as a way of reinforcing the central theme of the book. Different symbols have been used to convey ideas that are found in the book. According to the main character in this book, we only need one thing in life, a clean, well-lighted place, preferably a cafe that is well-lit and clean. The cafe has been identified as a pleasurable pace that is meant to relax the customer and provide a sense of comfort which the characters are unable to obtain from the bodegas or other cafes. Thus, the image of the cafe is central to the story and gives off the feeling that life outside the cafe is full of chaos. There are various hidden meanings behind the symbols used in "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" by Earnest which also help to emphasize its central theme.
The cafe has been used as a symbol to portray a safe place from evil and other forms of nature. The author identifies the Cafe as a useful form of sanctuary that protects the inhabitants from the evil that is in the world. An example of the cafe's usefulness as a shelter is identified when the deaf, old man uses the cafe as protection after he tried to commit suicide and almost succeeded. The old man admittedly enjoys the comfort that is provided by the cafe. In addition, the older waiter identifies the goodness of the cafe when he states "You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good, and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves." (13). The cafe also has different representation among the younger waiter, the old man, and the older waiter. For the older man and waiter, the cafe represents refuge, order as well as a distraction from the emptiness of the night. The younger waiter, on the other hand, views the restaurant as a place to exit as soon as he is done with his work so that he can go back home to his wife. He does not understand that for the older waiter and the old man, the cafe offers a clean and well-lit place as opposed to the void of desolation.
The recitation of the Lord's Prayer can be identified as a symbol that mocks religion's false concept of comfort. In the story, the older waiter recites the Lord's prayer to himself and replaces various nouns and verbs with the word 'nada' which is Spanish for nothing. This scene begins when he identifies man was nothing prays "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 and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing; nothing is with thee" (14). This replacement can be identified as a mock by the older waiter towards the notion that religion is capable of providing comfort. The older waiter discovered that his comfort stems from his ability to visit the "clean, well-lighted" cafe where he can distract himself from loneliness, thoughts of morality as well as insomnia. The older waiter believes that there is a no larger purpose to life than comfort and "It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it, but he knew it was already nada y pues nada y pues nada." (14).
The author uses the old man's deafness to suggest loneliness. Through deafness, the reader can be able to deduct that that the old man was disconnected from the others and thus is lonely. In addition, the notion that the old man liked the difference he felt when he visited the cafe is a testimony that he craves to feel a connection with others even if it is just their presence in the cafe. He does not have to talk to them but merely being in the same surrounding is comforting enough to him. According to the old man, the light in the cafe is more welcoming as compared to the bodegas as it is a "something" in the "nothing."
The identification of the countertops as unpolished may be identified as a symbol of chaos. Throughout the book, the author identifies the cleanliness of the cafe, which gives meaning to the life of the waiter while at the same time bringing order into his life. Having unpolished counters can be a way of suggesting that the waiter's life contained some form of chaos. "The light is very bright and pleasant, but the bar is unpolished," (16). From this phrase, it is clear that Hemmingway also uses light as a symbol. The older waiter is aware that a well-lighted cafe is all that is sometimes needed to keep the desolation and loneliness away. This view on life is drastically different from the younger waiter's outlook on life. The younger waiter is full of confidence and youth, aspects that both the old man and the older waiter lack.
In conclusion, different symbols have been used by Hemingway to describe the central theme of the story. Moreover, the symbols have been used to evoke the feeling of empathy from the reader to the characters and their struggles. The symbols have been used to identify the cafe as the small pleasurable place that makes people comfortable and gives meaning to their lives. Despite the differences in their perception towards life, it is clear that the cafe plays a central role in their lives and is the sole source of their comfort from the despair in the world. It is clear that the old man and the older waiter love to sit in the cafe due to its quiet and the shadows under the light act like a haven that provides relaxation to both characters. The prayer by the older waiter that was filled with "nada" can be identified as an attempt to make sense of the emptiness in his life in such a way that the nothing will give him order, meaning, and structure in his life. The action by the old man to regularly visit the cafe can also be described as akin to a ritual that is meant to find meaning while at the same time escape from the loneliness of having 'nothing.'
Hemingway, Ernest. A Clean Well-lighted Place. Creative Company, 1990.
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