Looking for A Clean, Well-Lighted Place character analysis? There are only three characters in the short story: the deaf old man, the older waiter, and the younger waiter. But who is the protagonist in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place? This article by Custom-Writing.org experts will answer this question, as well as draw up his character profile.
🗺️ A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Character Map
Below you’ll find A Clean, Well-Lighted Place character map. It contains all the key characters that appear in the short story.
👴 The Deaf Old Man
All that we know about the deaf old man comes from the young waiter’s words. Still, Hemingway leaves the reader much space to think and add more details to his portrait.
The man is wealthy or at least does not have to think about money. He lives with a niece. It means that he had a brother or a sister who could have died, leaving the niece an orphan. Every night, he comes to the same café and drinks until he is drunk. Sometimes, when he drinks too much, he may leave forgetting to pay for the order. But on the described day, he even left a small tip for the unfriendly young waiter.
The old man stood up, slowly counted the saucers, took a leather coin purse from his pocket and paid for the drinks, leaving half a peseta tip.A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
The most striking detail about the elderly man is that he has tried to hang himself. The niece cut the rope in time, fearing for his soul (not because she loves him).
This fact shows how lonely he is in his advanced years. His deafness makes it even worse.
It should be noted that the deaf man can speak. It means that he used to hear. Probably, he lost this ability during the war or because of old age.
🧓 The Older Waiter
According to his own statement, the old waiter does not have anything but a job. He doesn’t have a family and does not expect anything from the future. He stays at work till late hours so as not to come to his empty home. There, he will lie awake till the dawn. The waiter sympathizes with the deaf old man, recognizing his reflection and future self in the visitor.
This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling. Even now, drunk. Look at him.A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
The old waiter is the protagonist in the short story. He illustrates the existential crisis a person can face when they meet with nothingness. He no longer believes in God. Faith is the last straw for a person drowning in the lack of meaning in life. But this character has lost this chance for salvation.
The café is clean and proper. It creates an illusion of stability and order.
You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant café. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
But at some point, the old waiter will have to go home. The café is just a temporary refuge from bitter thoughts about nothingness. He goes to work to earn money for his existence. And he exists to go to work. The vicious circle leaves no space for a deeper meaning.
Since life has no point, the only thing that can be done is to make it comfortable and try not to overthink. The deaf man is clean and walks with dignity, which raises respect and apprehension in the older waiter. Maybe he will also try to kill himself someday or get drunk every evening to forget his thoughts. But now, he plays the role of a disillusioned person. He does not know what to do with life.
I am of those who like to stay late at the café… With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night.A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
👱 The Younger Waiter
Like many other young people, he is selfish and superficial. He has a wife, and his only concern is to go home as soon as possible. The late visitor irritates him, as he is never in bed before 3 in the morning. He thinks that his “hour” is worth more than the old man’s one. This waiter is rude to the visitor and says it would have been better if he had died.
He’ll stay all night… I’m sleepy now. I never get into bed before three o’clock. He should have killed himself last week.A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
This waiter is the antagonist. He is young and careless and knows how to enjoy himself in life. But his abrupt request not to “talk nonsense” to the older waiter shows that he flees from reality. The job, wife, concerns about the time he goes to bed, irritation with the late visitor are trivia that distract him from nothingness.
He invents a purpose in life just for the sake of it. The waiter is proud of his superiority over the older person.
I wouldn’t want to be that old. An old man is a nasty thing.A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
He is arrogant even to the other waiter who doesn’t have a wife.
I’m not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me.A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
These worldly attachments are temporary. The wife can turn out to be unfaithful or die of a disease. Besides, WWII started less than a decade after the story’s publication. The young waiter absolutizes the value of these small things forgetting that they are also temporary.
The young man doesn’t understand why the older waiter is depressed and uneager to go home. But when he is given an opportunity to think about it, the man keeps his mind off troubles. The “clean, well-lighted” setting of his home is also a temporary refuge from gray hairs and misfortunes. And life will teach him this lesson a bit later, and his point of view will change.
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