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A Clean Well Lit Place

Hemingway’s works are often said to illustrate the psychology of the “lost generation.” The lost generation grappled with an increased awareness of man’s intellectual dilemma in a seemingly indifferent and often hostile universe, wedged between WWI and WWII. War and its impact on mankind preoccupied the works of Hemingway and the author himself. This is no more true than his focus on the Spanish Revolution. Hemingway’s views on the impact of the Revolution on his characters and on the author himself can be viewed in his short story A Clean Well-Lighted Place. However, upon closer examination of Place, we see that Hemingway’s sense of disillusionment revealed in its characters and themes transcend the Spanish Revolution and pertain more to lost illusions in general.

In A Clean-Well Lighted Place, we see that Hemingway’s characters are filled with a sense of disillusionment. This disillusionment stems from life experiences that have revealed the basic emptiness or nothingness of a world of chaos, war, and loss of love. The plot of the story is simple. Two waiters serve an old man his brandy drinks around closing. While the young waiter is anxious to rid the place of the deaf old man, the older waiter understands the patron’s need for a clean, well-lighted refuge in such an empty world. The dark and light imagery represent the dilemma of mankind lost in a spiritual and moral vacuum. Experiences like the Spanish Revolution and the rise of fascism have proven costly and the old man no longer has any illusions of life as something light. Life is dark like the night setting of the story, and the old man clings to the light of a clean place where he can numb his emptiness with alcohol. The old waiter empathizes with his plight, “It was a nothing he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certai


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A Clean Well Lit Place. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:24, November 30, 2021, from