A Clean, Well-Lighted Place | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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Course Hero. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Study Guide." Course Hero. 12 Apr. 2019. Web. 21 Sep. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Clean-Well-Lighted-Place/>.

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Course Hero. (2019, April 12). A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Clean-Well-Lighted-Place/

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Course Hero. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Study Guide." April 12, 2019. Accessed September 21, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Clean-Well-Lighted-Place/.


Course Hero, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Study Guide," April 12, 2019, accessed September 21, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Clean-Well-Lighted-Place/.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place | Character Analysis


Older waiter

The older waiter distinguishes himself from the younger waiter through his response to the old man—he is sympathetic and understanding of the old man's loneliness and his need to frequent a place like the café late at night. He is in no rush to close the café and reveals his problem with insomnia at the end of the story. Because he is older, he has had time to think about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of life. He understands the old man because of this sense there is nothing or "nada" to provide comfort against loneliness and aging. He emphasizes the importance of a "clean, well-lit" café to provide some kind of order to lives like his own and the old man's.

Younger waiter

The younger waiter shows little interest in the old man's life or struggles. He pays little attention or respect to the older waiter's argument as to the necessity of keeping their café open late for those who need it. He seems unable to understand the concept of loneliness that the older waiter describes. He is preoccupied with his own interests and concerns—chiefly, going home to his wife. The younger waiter can't quite grasp that he, too, will be older and lonelier someday, and therefore dismisses the older waiter's argument. He reveals himself to be insensitive when he claims the old man would have been better off killing himself. He also shows this insensitivity when he shudders at the idea of being that old and when he describes being an older man to his older coworker as "a nasty thing." He doesn't recognize the luck bestowed on him by his youth.

Old man

The old man comes to the café at night to sit in the shadow of the trees made by the electric lights. Being deaf, he enjoys sitting like this because he finds the quiet of the night relaxing. Most of what the reader learns about the old man is through the dialogue between the two waiters. A week earlier, the old man attempted suicide, but he was saved by his niece who "cut him down." Because the old man has "plenty of money," the older waiter believes the suicide attempt was over "nothing." In other words, the older waiter blames the incident on the old man's despair about the meaninglessness or nothingness of life. he drinks with the purpose of getting drunk, the older waiter points out the dignified manner in which the old man does so. He "drinks without spilling," and when he departs the café his steps may be unsteady, but he walks down the street with dignity.


The barman is annoyed by the older waiter and does not engage in conversation.

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