A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (Hemingway)

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: Two waiters discussed an old man's loneliness and despair while he drank at their café late into the night, highlighting the importance of a clean, well-lighted place for comfort.

Late one night, an old man sat alone in a café, enjoying the quiet and the shadows cast by the leaves of a tree against the electric light. The two waiters working there knew the old man was a little drunk, and they kept an eye on him to make sure he didn't leave without paying.

The Old Man — deaf, lonely, and despairing; enjoys the quiet and cleanliness of the café; attempted suicide.

They discussed how the old man had tried to commit suicide the previous week, but they couldn't understand why since he had plenty of money.

Last week he tried to commit suicide. Why? He was in despair. What about? Nothing.

The old man asked for another brandy, and the younger waiter reluctantly served him, telling him he should have killed himself last week.

The Younger Waiter — impatient and eager to go home; lacks empathy for the old man; values his own comfort.

The old man paid for his drinks and left, walking unsteadily but with dignity. The two waiters closed the café, and the older waiter expressed his preference for staying late at the café, as he believed there might be someone who needed the place.

The Older Waiter — understands the old man's need for a clean, well-lighted place; empathetic and reflective; struggles with insomnia.

I am of those who like to stay late at the café. With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night.

The older waiter went to a bar, where he had a brief conversation with the barman about the brightness of the light and the lack of cleanliness. He then went home to his room, where he struggled to sleep, thinking that his insomnia was a common problem.