Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place is an excellent piece in terms of its organization, thematic representation, and character development. This paper seeks to examine the character development of the older waiter in Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. This paper will explain how Hemingway gives him depth – even though he is a static character. To realize this task, this paper will focus on explaining the techniques – details, thoughts, speech, actions, other characters, etc. – that the author uses to create the character’s complexity for the reader.
First of all, Hemingway is able to develop the character of the old man by organizing the plot in such a way that we can compare the lifestyles and the speeches of both the younger waiter and the old waiter. At the onset of the story, the older waiter does not personally understand his character and personality. However, similar to the old man the older waiter leads a lonely life. The older waiter does not like leaving his job earlier. He likes to stay up late in the night working at the café. It is not until the younger waiter explains the fact that the older waiter seems to be sympathetic to the old man that the older waiter realizes that he is sympathetic to the old man. This shows that Hemingway begins his story by presenting an old waiter who hardly understands himself and his own character. Through the creation of a solid background and interaction of the old waiter with other people like the younger waiter and the old man, we as readers are able to learn the complexity of character that characterizes the old waiter.
In terms of the character, the older waiter is more composed in his speech compared to the younger waiter. The older waiter is sympathetic to the plight of the old man in the café. He understands the problems arising from the loneliness of the old man. This is the reason why he lets the old man to keep drinking until 3 am. He understands that the man drinking brandy in the café is much different compared to the man taking the drink in the comfort of his home. The loneliness of the home of the old man makes him despair about life. This is the reason why the old man had tried to take his life by hanging himself.
The composure of the older waiter in terms of his thoughts is shaped by the fact that the older waiter’s life is also lonely. Like the old man, the older waiter does not have a wife. This means that when he gets out of work from the café, he lives alone. This makes him also despair about life just like the old man. It is evident from the story that the older waiter like the old man suffers from insomnia. He is not able to sleep when he gets home. This is the reason why he likes to stay late in the café because that is the only place that he finds to be sensible in his life. This accounts for the reason why he is not happy when the younger waiter does not allow the old man to continue drinking in the café until late in the night. Unlike both the old man and the older waiter, the younger waiter enjoys a nice youthful life and a job at the café. The younger waiter really wants to close his job early so that he can spend time with his wife who is patiently waiting for him at home. To the younger waiter, life is sweet and there is no reason as to why people should despair about their own lives. This accounts for his speech regarding the old man. The younger waiter wishes that the old man had died when he tried to hang himself. Unlike the old man, the younger waiter views life as satisfying and worth living. However, as a result of his young age, he does not take time to reflect on how his life is going to be when he gets older. He is preoccupied with the fantasies and the happiness presented to him by his youth and forgets that older people need to be treated with much respect and love.
It is through the behavior of the younger waiter that Hemingway is able to develop the character of the old waiter. The older waiter through his actions of trying to convince the younger man the situation of the old man comes out as a character who is remorseful, reflective, and a man of great wit. The older waiter takes time to advise the younger waiter the reasons why the younger waiter should treat the old man kindly. He takes time to explain the predicaments surrounding the old man. He is able to successfully able to explain to the younger man the reasons why the old man should be allowed to drink until 3am in the café (Weeks 65). In spite of the time that the older waiter takes to explain to the younger waiter the reasons why he should treat the old man with love, the younger waiter does not take time to reflect on what he is told. Instead, he preoccupied with closing the café early so that he can go home and spend quality time with his wife. He is also of the view that the old man can go and drink in bars instead of relying on the café for his drink.
As the younger character presents these ideas to the older waiter, the older waiter is able to think critically why the old man does not like drinking at bars. After reflecting on this idea, he realizes that just like himself, the old man is neat and clean in how he drinks. This means that he prefers to drink in areas that are neat, clean, and well-lit such as the café. The older waiter continues to reflect on the questions posed to him by the younger waiter and realizes that he also loves to stay in places that are clean and well-lit. The older waiter realizes that this might be one of the reasons why he prefers to stay late working in the café. In addition, when the older waiter goes to a bar to drink that night he tells the waiters in the bar that the bar was not clean and well lit. For this reason the older waiter leaves his drink and goes home.
In conclusion, Hemingway is able to create a complex character of the older waiter by comparing his thoughts, actions, and speeches to those of the younger waiter regarding the old man in the café. Hemingway is able to present the older waiter as a character who is reflective, thoughtful, and one who is witty in giving advice to his younger counterpart.
Weeks, Robert P. Hemingway: a collection of critical essays.. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1962. Print.