Setting and Atmosphere in a Clean, Well-Lighted Essay

Pages: 4 (1256 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

Setting and Atmosphere in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"

Ernest Hemingway's short story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," illustrates the importance of setting in that it not only establishes a mood but it also allows us to see different aspects of life. The mood of the story reflects the old man's attitude toward the futility of life. He is lonely and in despair and needs to be somewhere that takes this despair away from him. The cafe provides the old man with such a place because it is the opposite of what he is feeling. In this way, the polarity of the old man's dark mental state and the cafe's bright, clean atmosphere is highlighted. The cafe becomes significant because it is a place of hope and freedom for the old man. The contrasting settings emphasize the old man's despair while allowing us to understand why the cafe is important. Atmosphere becomes a driving aspect of the story as we learn more about the characters in it. The atmosphere of the cafe allows us to virtually see the old man's mindset clearly. Without this setting of the cafe, the story would lose its meaning and the characters would not have as much definition.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Setting and Atmosphere in a Clean, Well-Lighted Assignment

Hemingway creates two different moods with this story and one of them would be nonexistent without the cafe. The cafe is simply a place but because of the old man's loneliness, it becomes a sanctuary. This aspect of the story is illustrated with the conversation between the two waiters. The older waiter understands the old man's circumstance completely and attempts to explain it to the younger waiter to no avail. The older waiter tells the younger one that enjoys staying with the old, lonely people because he can understand not wanting to go home to the dark. The cafe "clean and pleasant" (565) and this is what attracts the lonely people. When they are in the cafe, they do not have to face the futility of life, which is demonstrated when the older waiter says that it is "nothing that he knew too well" (565). Michael Adams comments on the significance of the cafe. He states that it becomes the "most important symbol in the story because it represents a kind of hope, pathetic though it may be" (Adams). At home, the old man considers suicide but while at the cafe, he "can drink his brandy with dignity" (Adams). The older waiter can relate to this, noting how neat the old man is while he drinks. In short, Adams explains, "The cafe is a place where those without the innocence of youth, the illusions of belief, can pass the time with dignity" (Adams). While the cafe becomes important, it is essential to remember that the cafe is a "temporary respite from the chaos of the dark world outside" (Adams). Keeping this in mind, we can understand the importance of setting in this story. Without the cafe, the story would have less meaning because we would have nothing to which we could compare the old man's desperation or loneliness. As it is, we can see the vast difference between the two worlds perfectly.

The second mood in the story is reflected in the old man's frame of mind. He is full of despair and while he could "buy a bottle and drink at home" (Hemingway 143), it would not be the same because he would have to confront his loneliness and despair at home. The older waiter knows that drinking at home an in the cafe are "not the same" (143) but his efforts to convince the younger waiter of this are futile. The older waiter knows the desperation the old man feels and this is emphasized with the mention of "nada" and nothing in the story. Stephen… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Setting and Atmosphere in a Clean, Well-Lighted" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Setting and Atmosphere in a Clean, Well-Lighted.  (2009, April 1).  Retrieved May 28, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Setting and Atmosphere in a Clean, Well-Lighted."  1 April 2009.  Web.  28 May 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Setting and Atmosphere in a Clean, Well-Lighted."  April 1, 2009.  Accessed May 28, 2020.