Short Story #5: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway
Title: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Short Story #5 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Source: The World's Greatest Short Stories, Dover Thrift Edition, edited by James Daley. The story can also be found on Archive.org.
SummaryTwo waiters banter back and forth while waiting for an old deaf gentleman to leave the cafe. Finally, the impatient and younger waiter of the two grows frustrated enough that he cuts off the old man so he can go home. The older waiter scolds the younger for not understanding and appreciating what the old man seeks which is "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" to sit and drink at into the night. The cafe represents this where the bars, homes, and other such places do not. The younger waiter does not understand this and rushes home to his wife whereas the older waiter lingers and eventually lands in a bar, lamenting in his mind about a deep sorrow.
It's definitely Hemingway. Men lamenting about being men, short pithy dialogue, singular action, and though not directly mentioned, I imagined long moody stares into emptiness. The older waiter's lament is fascinating as he moves into saying the Lord's Prayer but replacing all major words with "nada" instead of the actual word (akin to Smurf talk actually).
The value of a "clean well-lighted place" for a man to drink in the evening is a fascinating one especially in relation to the "Nada" Lord's Prayer as Hemingway seems to suggest almost something religious and spiritual about the act.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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