Misha's Reviews > The Short Stories

The Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway
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May 31, 09

bookshelves: sometimes-reading, short-stories, classics

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" -- It's been at least 13 years since I'd read this story in a college American Lit survey, so it was pleasant to read it now and rediscover the beautiful simplicity of this brief tale about the inevitable loneliness of aging.

I was struck by the dichotomy between the waiter-with-a-wife and the older waiter/the old man. The waiter-with-a-wife has the narrow view of someone who is relatively fulfilled. He can't understand why the old man would despair if he has plenty of money, and rushes the old man out of the cafe so he can get home to his own life. The older waiter gives us the perspective we need to understand the point of the story -- that we're all alone in the end, reaching out for some little bit of comfort, even if it's just a clean, well-lighted cafe.

I love that Hemingway gives just enough detail of the scene and setting that I could create a vivid mental picture, but allowed enough flexibility that I was creating the picture. It's my imagination filling in the gaps, and so the cafe and the old man and the shadows and the empty tables became mine.
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