The reader learns about the attempted suicide of the elderly visitor from the younger waiter. There is no viable reason for his intention to hang himself because he has a lot of money and a niece who cares for him. But the old man is utterly lonely and miserable, as any person, who has lost meaning in life.
The older man in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place tries to heal from depression by visiting the café. From time to time, when he gets sober, he may realize that it does not help. Probably at one of such moments, he tried to kill himself. His niece cut the rope in “fear for his soul.” Suicide is not as easy as one could assume, and few people dare to attempt it for the second time.
The only thing left for the old man is alcohol to dumb his feelings and the clean café to please his eyes. But this method of fighting with despair is a painkiller, not a treat. Alcohol is a strong depressant, and when taken for a long time, it aggravates any depression.
So why was the man in despair in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place?
The old man has made several attempts to get rid of his depression. He has a lot of money, but it does not please him. Once, he was married, but he has no wife now. He tried to kill himself but in vain. The man spends every night at the well-lit café, but he cannot socialize because he is deaf. And nothingness has robbed all the joy from him, making his existence pointless.