A Clean Well Lighted Place (Short Stories)
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A Clean Well Lighted Place (Short Stories)

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  2,171 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Short story.
Hardcover, 30 pages
Published April 1st 1997 by Creative Education (first published 1933)
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Something very moving caught my attention as I was starting to read this: a small black ant crawling along the edges of the book. My first thought was: murder, I've got to kill this thing: and my favorite method of extinguishing the life of trespassing attention-getters like this is to place them somewhere in the middle of the open book, close the book, pound it with a fist as it lays on the table, then open it again on the page where they met their end and look to see how they'd appear to subse...more
"A Clean, Well Lighted Place" is absolutely the best short story of all time, and the greatest thing I have ever read. I know that's a big statement but I really believe it to be utterly perfect. It's one of the most heartbreaking, intimate stories I've ever read and it captures a lifetime of humility, loneliness, and our ability as humans to be both the source of pain and salvation for each other - all in 3 pages. It will stay with you forever.
Analysis of the two major characters in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway (DOES contain spoilers)

One of the major and most ostensible distinctions between the two major characters (the two waiters) in Hemingway’s short story is the age difference. One of the waiters is “younger” and the other is “older”, probably a middle-aged man. They are both keeping watch of their last customer, an old man who drinks to excess, and discussing the fact that he had tried to commit suicide.

Monica Piquero
The image of despair, loneliness, youth, old age, humility and reflection. Came through in such short pages. explaining the deep need of humanity to find hope, purpose and need in a state of despair and loneliness. the old man found it in the end of a glass of brandy, meanwhile the older waiter found it in becoming an aid of hope by worrking at night in a well lighted place to his preference a cafe. identifying himself with the old. man's ordeal. he defends him from the young waiters perspective...more
Michael de Percy
I've always had a nagging thought that short stories were a cop-out for an author of novels - a bit like a media article compared to a journal article or a monograph for an academic. This particular short story seems to have been popular for its treatment of the Lord's Prayer, but I am spellbound by Hemingway's ability to shake loose a raft of emotions in such a short space. Maybe it is his self-centredness I identify with - I am not sure - but I seem to be able to identify with all of the chara...more
Timothy Morrow
Deep and meaningful, Hemingway writes a great short story that has many questions and indeed a lot to think about...
"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is one of my favourite short stories by Hemingway. A story about three men at different states of their lives; two waiters of a cafe (one young, one older) and an old man as a customer. The old man is living in a state of despair and loneliness, having recently attempted suicide. The younger waiter is insensitive to this and just wants the old man to leave. He himself has "everything": youth, confidence, a job and a wife. He does not realize that not everybody has t...more
A sad and depressing story of three different types of men. The one that has drink, the one that owns a cafe and the one that has a family. Usually men have all of them in one life, but this story tells of those who only have one, and how much they value them.

Suicide, money and drink usually come together when there is talk about depressing times. Simply it is just the way it works, when we are talking about men; women are on a completely different level, sometimes. The title of this short story...more
A Clean Well Lighted Place still leaves me pondering upon the third read. Which is kind of a good thing.

This must be Hemingway at his best. The extreme minimalism could not be better suited than to this really short story, which is read in few minutes, but for now, at least, remains with me.

Should it not, however, I will remind myself of the story about an old, deaf, lonely, suicidal man who gets himself drunk in this clean well lighted café. Young waiter is anything but pleased, and starts ins...more
Rosa Lee Mullins
This is the first work by Hemingway that I read and it is also my favorite. What I really liked was the use of setting, the three characters that portray three phases of life, and a problem that describes the human condition. I also enjoyed the "play" on the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary at the end of the story. I enjoy stories written by the Lost Generation, as many of them captured the particular moment in history when humans were very vulnerable. Hemingway captured that moment very precisely an...more
I like to read this story with my Introduction to Literature students and then ask them which character they identify with best; the old drunk man, the older waiter, or the young waiter. I think the character you pick is fairly telling about your time and place in life. I tend towards the younger waiter--I always feel like I can't wait to go away from work in order to live my real life. But I love the treatment given to the older waiter in the end, when he goes away from the diner in quiet refle...more
Rachel Jackson
One of my favorite things about reading is that you can come across a line, a sentence in a book somewhere in and go, Ah! That's what I've been saying this whole time! But you never know how to verbally express it until you see someone else has done it for you. I hardly thought one of those moments for me would come through Ernest Hemingway, but there was one here:

""Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily...more
Obviously with a high average rating, I'm missing something. I'm not a big fan of Hemingway overall, but I thought the short story was pretty decent. I can see the symbolism and parallels between the old man and the waiter, but the story didn't move me.
Menna Kh.
This is amazing. No one can ever reach this depth in characterizing the human loneliness and despair like Hemingway does.
Some men grow older with comfort. And some just go from nada to nada to nada.
I'd read it forever
Rowland Bismark
The Struggle to Deal with Despair

The old man and older waiter in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” struggle to find a way to deal with their despair, but even their best method simply subdues the despair rather than cures it. The old man has tried to stave off despair in several unsuccessful ways. We learn that he has money, but money has not helped. We learn that he was once married, but he no longer has a wife. We also learn that he has unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide in a desperate attempt...more
Sitting in a clean, well lit diner in San Francisco, this short story suddenly infiltrated my thoughts.

This isn't the first time I've caught myself thinking of this story. Hemingway's "iceberg theory" lends itself to having his stories process, conscious & unconscious, in the background, as I go through my day.

'A Clean Well-Lighted Place' may be his finest short story. That's certainly my opinion.

Strongest of recommends.
Isaac Park
Hemingway's economical style of writing does not fail to give me chills... I would say that this story consists of roughly 95 per cent dialogue and 5 per cent of something actually happening. But the dialogues never seem to bore me out; they rather dig deep and get under our soft hearts and provoke sympathy and empathy... Also, they kick us into an atmosphere redolent with the many covert characters of the world that not many of us care to think about: the meaning of life; not the "I want to be...more
Brian Yahn
This one, I must admit, I don't see what the fuss is about.

It's the story of an old waiter and a younger one judging a older alcoholic, who is staying late and drinking in their cafe. The old waiter is on the side of the alcoholic, and the younger one presents an antagonistic view. If there's something profound here, it wooshed right over my head.
So, confession, I don't actually have this book - but I did read Clean Well Lighted Place in college and have it in an anthology in Colorado - so it counts, right?

Clean Well Lighted Place is the first Hemingway piece I read and I fell in love with how Hemingway tells a story. The simplicity of the conversation between the two bartenders reveals so much about their personality and perception of this customer who just wants a clean, well lighted place to spend the last few moments of his day. Call...more
Now, I know this is a great story by Ernest Hemingway, and though I just read, I can't tell you why it's great. Probably, it's Hemingway's gift for speaking to people and places that are completely desolate - like his later countryman Hunter S. Thompson, through personal experience he came to relate to those people and places, and can recreate them in his fiction with unsettling realism.
Whatever the reason, I highly recommend this story. I felt some similarities to J.D. Salinger, but where Salin...more
May be I am one of those otro locos but I think different aspects of the human nature are very well reflected in this very interesting short story. Despite a few shortcomings, there are lots, each deserving of a due attention. The asserted fact that the young waiter did not wish to be unjust. He was only in a hurry is quite thought-provoking. Well, he has been unjust in my view, was it his being in a hurry? I am still wondering because I am living in a big city and am in a hurry most of the time...more
Jennifer M. Hartsock
I really enjoyed the dialogue. It was very realistic and we gained a sense of where these character’s values lie because of what was said. I recommend this story to be read as an example of how almost-all dialogue said just as much as almost-all description.

Hemingway uses dialogue to tell the story instead of a lot of nonverbal description. Through the bum drinking, and the young waiter wanting to go home to his wife, and the older waiter also needing a place to stay, we see that two men are une...more
Richard F. Schiller
Arguably the best short story I've ever read. Leaves one contemplating the essence of time - the rise and fall of an individual through age.
In general, a waste of time, although Hemingway illustrates a good juxtaposition between the callous and the caring.
Hemingway was very adept in writing about the human condition. The theme of this short story is of despair and loneliness. Hemingway portrays the "Clean Well-Lighted Place" as a refuge for an elderly man who struggles with his existence. This man is a regular customer of this establishment and drinks into the wee hours of the morning when all the other customers have gone home. The dialogue between the two waiters express their different views on what it is be lonely and to feel like there is no...more
carl  theaker

The memorable dialog in this story made me think that it would be
witty of me to use it in a project for a French class. A fellow
student and I translated it into French for a scene we had to enact
in front of the class. Fortunately we had to submit it to the Professor
first and much to my surprise, she almost shot me.

Perhaps it was the translation, but more so I don't think she appreciated
the suicidal nature of the protagonist. We re-did the dialog into ordering
and drinking wine at bistro, and i...more
Analyzed for Honors English.
Utter rubbish!
I read it twice, and it didn't do much for me. Sure, there are things to dig into such as loneliness, a need for order etc. etc. ... but I don't see why anybody would pick this as one of the best Hemingway short stories. When it comes to themes and allegories, less is usually more but 'A Clean, Well-Lighted Place' proved an exception to that well-known rule. So either less became to little... or, quite possibly, I missed something.
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Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collec...more
More about Ernest Hemingway...
The Old Man and the Sea The Sun Also Rises For Whom the Bell Tolls A Farewell to Arms A Moveable Feast

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“He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it.” 210 likes
“Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee.” 56 likes
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