Mrs. Aubrey Bryant
AP Language and Composition
13 September 2015
In “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” the idea of nothingness and what it means is shown to the reader through in depth dialogue between complex characters. Existentialism is a major theme throughout the story which the reactions of both the waiters and the old man demonstrates. When looking into the inner monologue of these three characters, humanity’s emotions and the interactions we have between one another are questioned. Each of these men represent a section of society based on how they deal with the inevitability of death and their current physical circumstance.
The subject of choice plays a large role in both the idea of existentialism and the short story itself. The central conflict in this story occurs when the waiters are deciding whether to let the old man stay and drink or to close the cafe. The younger waiter, the one with a wife at home, is in a rush to close up while the older, single waiter would rather stay. As their dialogue progresses it becomes clear the younger waiter believes in the importance of material things. When the older waiter is discussing the reasoning for why the old man tried to commit suicide, the younger believes “he was in despair about nothing" and claims the old man “has plenty of money” (Hemingway 222). By looking at the material side of things the younger waiter fails to see the point being made by his colleague. The older waiter is more concerned with the spiritual side of things, he explains why the old man prefers sitting at the cafe rather than spending time alone at his house. He seems to understand that the choice being made by his customer stems from his lack of...