“A Clean Well-Lighted Place” is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway. At first glance, it may seem to be unemotional, simple, and even unfinished; however, it eventually addresses highly essential topics, and the main one is the meaning of life that changes with age. The author presents three characters – a young waiter, an older waiter, and an old deaf man – to show what life means for every generation. Thus, a young man does not want to stay late at work, having “a wife waiting in bed” for him. He refuses to understand an old customer, and his request for another drink irritates him. At the same time, an older waiter feels compassion for a deaf man admitting that “it was all a nothing and a man was nothing too.” He understands that money and close people cannot prevent an old man from feeling desperate. In turn, an old man who comes every evening to stay and drink in a clean and well-lighted place perceives the emptiness and senselessness of life as he tries to commit suicide to finish it.
Another theme of the story that is closely connected with the first one is hope and despair. In general, a clean and well-lighted café may be regarded as a symbol of hope surrounded by the darkness of despair. Readers may notice how older people are attached to this place in their desire to feel alive. That is why an old waiter confesses that he does not want to close up and finish work “because there may be some one who needs the café.” Finally, when he leaves the place, he cannot find peace in his mind and cannot feel comfortable in a bar as “a clean, well-lighted café was a very different thing.”