In the short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” Ernest Hemingway tells of three characters that see life differently. The different perspectives of the two waiters is because the old waiter realizes that he will one day be like the old man, the young waiter refuses to accept the appearance of the old man and the old man has accepted life and modern society as being pointless. Coming of age counters many experiences along the way. The café being “a clean, well-lighted place” to the young waiter is seen as just a place where he earns money, whereas the old waiter and old man see it as a place of refuge where they don’t feel lonely.
The old waiter realizes that he will one day become the old man. Through experiences, the old waiter is defensive over the old man in a way that he can relate and see himself. He is accepting fate as it is and not how he wants it to be. Loneliness also adds to the mood of the old waiter to a point where he has no one to return to and why he prefers this clean well-lighted place, the café. “Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the café” (Pg. 98). The old waiter is one of many who prefer to stay up late, those who do not want to go to bed and those who need a light. He sees the café as a place where he is needed and belongs. The old man and the waiter share similar characteristics that life has to offer. How they both rely on the café is similar to how many students attend school for an education.
The young waiter refuses to accept the appearance of the old man. Being young, earning money, full of confidence and having someone to return home to, the young waiter does not realize the importance of the café to the old waiter and old man. His actions in a way seem centered on him and what’s best for him only. What the old waiter and old man think has no importance to him. He is reminded of how fortunate he is to have everything the old waiter lack that is being young, confident and work. The young waiter complains of working late when he should be at home with his wife. “He’s lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me” (Pg. 97). The significance of the café to the young waiter is nothing but a place to earn money and provide for his family. He doesn’t understand the desire that both the old waiter and old man have for the café due to his inexperience.
The old man has accepted life and modern society as being pointless. He has no one apart from his niece. The two waiters converse about the old man attempting suicide and fails. His failure resorts to being lonely and becoming drunk. Consuming alcohol for the old man is a way overcoming this feeling. The reason to this suicidal attempt