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Yearning for Peace in Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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Yearning for Peace in Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

While Hemingway's short story "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is usually interpreted as an intensely poetic description of despair, it can with equal validity be seen instead as mankind's never ending yearning to find spiritual peace. Hemingway's short story displayed this emotional journey in many different ways. First, the title itself is a symbol for man's desire to find a state of tranquillity, safety, and comfort. Hemingway also showed this in the story's setting, which was used as a symbol for a sense of order, for it was late, the cafe was empty, and the men there were at ease. Finally, Hemingway showed this desire in the contrasting actions between the
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Here he was showing that in one's lowest level of despair, man's one and only desire is to find a safe haven, and to acquire a sense of security.

Finding a sense of security and meaning to life was very important to Hemingway who was known to feel that the individual quest for meaningful values was a universal one, probably because Hemingway himself struggled to find the true meaning of his life, or the true sense of his purpose.

The despair that Hemingway himself felt is best shown in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" when the older waiter was intertwined in a conversation with himself. He said that: "It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada" (383).

Nothing and then nothing. When one is in a state of despair, the only thing that one is looking for is a way out of one's situation, or a road that will lead to a peaceful end to one's feelings of hopelessness.

Hemingway, however, presented a remarkable example of man's search for an end to his state of hopelessness. When one waiter commented on the deaf man's attempt at taking his own life, he said "Last week he tried to commit suicide." The other waiter replied "Why?" Then he said, "He was in despair" (379). This summed up man's desire, at his lowest level of depression, to find peace,
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