Essay: Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Leonard

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¶ … Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Leonard, John. "A Man of the World' and 'A Clean, Well-Lighted Place:' Hemingway's

Unified View of Old Age. The Hemingway Review, Spring; 13 (2): 1994, pp. 62-73.

Although a "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" (1933) and "A Man of the World" (1957) were published almost twenty years apart, according to critic John Leonard's essay "A Man of the World' and 'A Clean, Well-Lighted Place:' Hemingway's Unified View of Old Age" both short stories revolve around the challenges that old age brings, in terms of coping with the meaning of life, depression, as well as physical and/or moral blindness. The early Hemingway foresaw the concerns of the older, later Hemingway. While the issue of light and blindness perhaps most obviously comes to the forefront in "A Man of the World" which details the story of an aging prizefighter, Blindy, is reduced to working in a bar, it is also evident in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," which also takes place in a bar depicting an old, alcoholic man being gazed upon by two waiters as he drinks all night.

Both old men are viewed with various degrees of pity by the young, despite their differences in economic circumstances. The old man of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is capable of leaving a half a peseta tip, yet the younger waiter still views him with contempt after he is served. Despite the fact he was once a champion athlete, now Blindy must scramble for quarters and is looked down upon even by drunken gamblers. Not only is Blindy incapable of fighting, the young men in the bar cannot believe he ever fought, because of his blind eyes, drunken body, and high-pitched voice.

However, both men, according to Leonard, despite their fall in circumstances, morally and socially, are obsessed with what he calls "just exchanges" and the sense that life has dealt them an unfair blow, and that by creating a correct or good exchange they can right this wrong. The old man is still obsessed with the propriety of leaving the correct tip,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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