Hemingway’s short story ‘A Clean Well Lighted Place’ is a story about an old waiter Nada, it is a story about the predicament and cruelty brought on Nadad by being grown old. For him the realization at this stage of life is futility, uselessness and nothingness of life and this is the main theme of this story. Hemingway’s main theme as a fiction writer is summarized by various critics in one word that is ‘violence’. He is writing about the physical violence the psyche violence, the violence of war and even the violence of everyday life. This particular story is about the last violence, the violence in everyday life which evokes emotions of fear, pain, hurt, anxiety, empathy, trauma, tension and ultimately hostility. In this story the contrast is created between the young waiter and the old waiter, they work together in same café at temperamentally they are poles apart. For the young waiter money and material satisfaction is everything but for the old man this is absurd and useless because according to the old man money and material satisfaction is the main cause for all the problems of the world. This needs drive people to kill each other and create all sorts of tragedies. The young waiter is hostile and sarcastic; he shows cynicism towards the customers while the old waiter is all confident and compassionate. The story takes place at eh café with its day in it and the old waiter indentifying his plight and predicament. By turning off the lights of the Café, the old waiter continues to brood over his situation, which is the theme of the story, he remembers “It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too”. Nada means nothingness; he stands for nothingness even his prayer is for nothing. Because for him the universe is without any meaning and the man is deprived of everything which sustains him and this is the naked reality for Nada.
He reaches to conclude that God has abandoned the world and everywhere there is void and futility. He is pensive and helpless, when he is asked a question by a bar-man “What is yours?” and the reply is negative. One can obviously say that the younger waiter is an unconscious victim of life while the older waiter is the conscious victim of life. On the other hand neither of them is in a position to dispel their victimization. In this story, the autobiographical element of Hemingway’s ceaseless void during the last few years of his life is obvious. Most of his friends and companions of his charismatic period either left him or died. The agony, depression and loneliness took over him. He is missing the strength and stamina of the outdoor life. Helplessness has completely been with him which was for him as if he was in ‘another country’. To conclude, this short story brings Hemingway close to the existentialist writers, it was a struggle to maintain separate identity and dignity to survive which ultimately brings nothingness. The important existential comparison can be made like, to Sartre the father of existential the meaninglessness was basically an idea, for Albert Camus the absurd was a concept but for Hemingway meaninglessness and absurdity is not only philosophical idea or concept but they are life’s real experiences derived from seeing and experiencing the life as he saw it. And this story represents this aspect of his understanding of life.