English / Defining Life'S Purpose Through Hemingways'S Eyes

Defining Life'S Purpose Through Hemingways'S Eyes

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Autor:  anton  22 June 2011
Tags:  Defining,  Purpose,  Through,  Hemingwayss
Words: 788   |   Pages: 4
Views: 281

“A Clean, Well Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway is a short story investigating the meaning and purpose of life. Hemingway uses the character of the old waiter to address the question of whether or not one’s purpose in life depreciates when there seems to be nothing left to look forward to.

In the short story, there are three main characters: an old man, and two waiters; one young and the other older. It is through these characters and the dialogue between the two waiters that we gain information about the story and the character themselves. The story begins with the old man sitting in the cafГ© and the waiters are talking about him. The young waiter is complaining to the older waiter about the fact that the old man never seems to leave the cafГ© before two in the morning and does not allow him to get home and in his bed before three. The older waiter seems unbiased and is almost like an observer not saying much but as the story progresses, we learn more about him.

The younger waiter who works at the café is married and very young and is in a hurry to close and go to bed. He does not understand why the old man stays up so late to drink at the café or even why he is so distressed as to commit suicide because the old man has money; he is unable to sympathize with the old man because he seems to have a purpose in life because as the older waiter puts it “you[waiter] have youth, confidence and a job” (122)

The second character is the character of the old man. We learn from the dialogue that this old man was once married but now lives with his niece and is also deaf. He comes to the cafГ© every night and on some nights he gets so drunk that he leaves without paying. He is a loner and always sits by himself and drinks until the younger waiter will no longer give him anything. The old man has nothing left to live for aside from the niece who takes care of him and his money.

The older waiter is sort of like the observer. He seems unbiased as to whether or not life has purpose. All that is known about him is that he lives alone and works at the café. As the story progresses, he becomes sympathetic towards the old man unlike the younger waiter who does not seem to understand why the old man is in despair, stating that “he has plenty of money” (120). But the older waiter realizes that the old man although he has nothing to be depressed about, does not have anything to look forward to either and sympathizes with him.

Soon, the older waiter begins to identify with the old man because he too has nothing to look forward to unlike the young waiter who has a wife waiting for him at home and his youth still, and confidence. Although he does not seem to be envious of the young waiter for those things, he does envy the fact that the young waiter has something to look forward to. The older waiter realizes that once you no longer have anything to look to, some sort of motivation, life no longer has purpose and meaning. It becomes nothing.

The older waiter and the old man seem to be in the same situation. They are both old and no longer have anything to look forward to. The older waiter like the old man both escape the emptiness they feel by going to the café and spending some time there. In a way, the café becomes their haven. For the old man, he at least knows that there is a “clean, well lighted place” where he can go to escape the emptiness that his life has become. For the older waiter, it gives him some sort of purpose, although temporary, to replace the nothingness that his life has become. He is willing to stay at the café “because there may be some one who needs the café.” (122)

Hemingway thus efficiently uses these three different characters to show that life has no ultimate purpose. By using the young waiter, he shows that although some people might have things to look forward to, such as a wife or husband, youth and confidence, those things are only temporary. The old man is used to show that those things are only temporary and that once they are gone, we become like the older waiter and the old man himself: with nothing. The American ideal of the pursuit of happiness means nothing, for there is nothing to pursue when there is nothing to look forward to.



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