Dark Vs. Light In


Dark Vs. Light In “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Essay, Research Paper

Dark Against Light in ?A Clean, Well-Lighted Place?

The main character in ?A Clean, Well- Lighted Place,?

written by Ernest Hemingway, is the old man. The old man, who

remains nameless throughout the short story, comes to the caf?

for the light it provides him against the dark night. He stays

late into the night, and sits ?In the shadow the leaves of the

tree made against the electric light.? The old man is deaf and

finds comfort in the ?difference? he feels inside the quiet caf?.

The old man struggles with old age and the feeling of nothingness

which is representative of the darkness outside of the caf?.

The well-lit caf? represents order and cleanliness. Outside

in the dark, a young soldier and a girl hurry along the streets.

Apparently, the couple intend to go off alone. They symbolize

the excitement that can go on in the night between two people.

The old man is around eighty years old, and does not have a wife.

He doesn?t experience this type of relationship in the dark.

Rather, he finds company in the clean, well-lighted caf?.

Although the only other two people in the caf? at the late hour

are the two waiters, the old man finds it content.

The two waiters comment that although he is ?A good client

they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without

paying.? The younger of the two waiters wants to go home. He

has a wife and claims he never gets ?into bed before three

o?clock.? He treats the deaf old man as if he were dumb. He

speaks to him ?with that omission of syntax stupid people employ

when talking to drunken people or foreigners.? The young waiter

knows that the old man tried to commit suicide last week, but

feels no remorse for him. He is too preoccupied with closing the

caf? to get home. It is not important to the young waiter that

the old man has a clean place to stay. Unlike the old man, the

young waiter says he has ?confidence.? ??You have youth,

confidence, and a job,? the older waiter said. ?You have

everything.?? He has no reason to hide from the dark. He like

the soldier and girl, can find excitement in the dark. He is not

lonely like the old man. The young waiter resents the old man

because he does not want to sit in the caf? all night as he

watches him get drunker and drunker. When the older waiter

questions what the matter of one hour is to the younger waiter,

the younger waiter responds that an hour is ?More to me than

him.? The young waiter says to the older waiter that the old man

can ?Buy a bottle and drink at home.? But then later agrees with

the older waiter that it is not the same.

The older waiter, on the other hand, feels sympathetic

towards the deaf old man. He is not as old as the old man, but

can comprehend with the aging process. He is not youthful like

the younger waiter. He knows that the old man is lonely. That

his wife has died and his niece looks after him. The older

waiter understands that even though the old man has plenty of

money he is alone in the world. He realizes that it is important

to keep a clean, well-lit caf? open for people like the old man

who can not sleep. The older waiter recognizes the difference in

his caf? and that of a dark bar or bodega. He knows that ?Light

was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order.? He is

?reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the

caf?.? The reader finds out at the end of the story that the

waiter is like the old man in need of light and cleanness, when

he goes to a bar after closing and comments that although ?The

light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished.?

The waiter blames it on insomnia, but he like the old man is

alone. In a way, the company of the old man is good for him just

as it is to the old man. He admits to the younger waiter ?I am

of those who like to stay late at the caf?,…With all those who

need a light for the night.? He also, tells the younger waiter

that he lacks everything but work. Similar to the old man, he

lacks youth and confidence.

One characteristic that neither the old man nor the older

waiter lack is dignity. Even though the old man is drunk when he

leaves the caf?, he still walks down the street in a

distinguished manner. Likewise, the older waiter comments that

you can not stand before a bar with dignity even though ?that is

all that is provided for these hours.? For both the old man and

the older waiter life held nothing, nada. The light, the

pleasantness, and cleanliness of a late night caf? is the only

sense of being for the two men. They are both alone. And

although at night they find themselves alone, it also brings a

peacefulness and consolation from the busy day. The light that

they find in the night brings them a strong sense of relief from

what they are missing in the dark. Both of the men are older and

know the reality of darkness. The youthful young waiter lacks

experience which does not intimidate him from the dark. The

order of the light keeps the two others up, and away from the

loneliness. The dark holds nothingness, while the light is

inviting and being.

Regardless of the old man?s pursuit of light, he sits in the

shadows created by the leaves. Almost as if he is an outsider or

onlooker of the light. In this aspect, he is slightly similar to

the younger waiter who awaits the darkness of his wife and their

bed. It is as if the old man is stuck in the middle: he longs

for the brightness of the electric light, but he can not

completely pull himself from the darkness of the shadow. The

shadow stands for a shelter from the complete light or darkness.

It is a middle ground for him to be guarded in.

At the end of the short story, the older waiter blames it

all on insomnia. He claims ?Many must have it.? Like the old

man, the older waiter and many others who have experienced the

nothingness of darkness, long for the light and cleanness of a

caf? open late at night. Maybe it is insomnia. Whatever the

case, it is like an illness which the victim suffers from the

fear of nothingness and of being alone that comes with old age.

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