The Light in an Eternal Sea of Darkness Essay

Submitted By LtBallzacki
Words: 972
Pages: 4

The Light in an Eternal Sea of Darkness

Corazon Aquino, the eleventh president of the Philippines once said, “I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life.” Aquino essentially asks if life has no meaning, why should we live. Just as Aquino struggles to find meaning in her life, the elderly people in Ernest Hemingway's, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” face the same struggles. In Hemingway's short story, he creates a cafe to represent hope, order, and clarity to show us that as we age, there is an increasing need for an escape from despair and loneliness caused from the struggle to find meaning in life. In Hemingway's story, he begins by introducing us to an old deaf man taking refuge in the cafe.This is not the first time the man has showed up at the cafe however. He shows up every night. The man is in despair and just, “last week he tried to commit suicide.” He tried to escape his despair and failed. He is now back at the cafe which serves as his escape from all this. In the eternal sea of darkness night time produces, this cafe provides a clean, well lit place for the man to stay. It is important to notice that Hemingway specifies the light the cafe gives off is not just any light, but instead, an an, “electric light.” Hemingway specifies the light type to show us how the cafe’s light has these qualities of hope and clarity, but because it gives off this artificial, electric light, the hope is merely artificial and temporary. Where the fabricated light of a street light shines on a young passing soldier and his girlfriend, the old man sits, “in the shadow of the leaves,” of a nearby tree. Here Hemingway shows us that in our youth we have this artificial sense of happiness (the soldier), but as we grow old (the old man) this happiness fades. This is why the old deaf man sits in the shadows, as his happiness has run out. He instead finds his own shelter from the cafe’s liquor. The cafe provides all these remedies for the deaf man and people alike, and temporarily erases the loneliness and despair that consumes people otherwise. The cafe provides therapy for some like the old man but fails to instill its importance in the youth. In the cafe there are two waiters, a young and old one, who are conversing about the deaf man's life. The young and insensitive waiter says, “I wish I could go home.” The seasoned waiter defends the old man, “He stays up late because he likes it,” and again the young waiter retorts, “He’s lonely. I’m not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me.” In this discussion the young waiter—like the previously mentioned young soldier—has this artificial happiness (his wife waiting at home for him). He is insensitive towards the deaf elderly mans severe depression because he has not yet had to search for life’s meaning like the old man and therefore cannot see how the cafe provides this refuge for him. He eventually kicks him out because of his egocentrism and the unhurried older waiter asks, “Why didn’t you let him stay and drink?” The old waiter is concerned about keeping the cafe open for the old man because he realizes that he may need someone to keep this place of hope open for him to one day too. The cafe provides the hope, order, and clarity for the older men in the cafe where the younger people seem to be oblivious, but what in fact causes their despair in the first place? In another conversation between the waiters, one of them asks why the deaf man tried to commit suicide. The conversation continues, “He was in despair.’ ‘What about?’