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The darkness against the light in a clean well lighted place by ernest hemingway

Other people get killed; not you. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me.

  1. The same idea is portrayed by the old man's deafness. The younger and the older waiter stand in opposition to each other.
  2. Certainly you do not want music.
  3. It was a nothing he knew too well. They echo the groundlessness of human existence.
  4. I turn on all the lights and the nothing retreats a little.
  5. I sip a cup of coffee and, if I still feel lonely, at least I find some comfort in the warmth and taste and aroma.

Whatever I had to do men had always done. If they had done it then I could do it too and the best thing was not to worry about it. It is a profound philosophical concept that has spawned many debates over time and still an unsettling matter, like so many other existentialist questions. Nevertheless, Hemingway seems to have a firm grasp on this concept, or at least he shows us how his characters have discovered and how they deal with the awareness of such an unsettling concept. The purpose of this essay is then to understand four selected short stories and consider how Hemingway treats the concept of nothingness and what implications and consequences he sees as emanating from the experience of nothingness.

I will then discuss its meaning and implication in each of the stories, and finally how the stories themselves relate to each other in terms of this theme. Still, the definition of this movement is a strenuous one, because it is defined not only by the purely philosophical texts that it spawned, but also by its fictional works, which were arguably more influential to the establishing of the movement than their counterpart.

In Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" what is the significance of the old man's deafness?

Steven Crowell argues that existentialism is indeed better understood as a movement rejecting other select systematic philosophies rather than as a systematic philosophy itself 2. He then goes on writing that men must take responsibility for their own behaviour, and that anguish arises from the realization that our actions are responsible for all humanity and not only ourselves. Many parallelisms to Hemingway can instantly be drawn from these definitions. With no obvious plot to drive the action forward, the story shows us three main characters each with a moral code of their own.

The story begins with a powerful description of an old man sitting late at night in the shadow cast by a tree against an electric light and drinking. This oddly specific depiction has a clear purpose in the story; it is a metaphor that immediately identifies the single most important feature of this character — he is living in a world of darkness.

A moment later, Hemingway lets us know through a very simple yet lifelike dialogue the reason why: The story shows us is a dichotomy in the way nothingness is dealt with between three morally different stages in life: Anyway I should say he was eighty. It is not because he is old, but because of his loneliness.

It is their circumstantial qualities that define them, not their age. We also never know their names. That being said, it should also not be neglected that older people have had obviously more time to be initiated to it.

How characters deal with nothingness in their lives. The younger waiter here shows us how oblivious and at the same time how vulnerable he is to the issue of nada.

  • Hemingway dedicated the anthology Men at War to his three sons so that they might have a book "that will contain the truth about war as near we can come by it;
  • This spare language also represented the atmosphere of this era;
  • During the day, everything has been a reminder to him of his separation from the rest of the world;
  • The scene is real life; the Big Dipper hangs in the sky over the gas-lit shoreline of the town, and Vincent makes the sky and stars sparkle and shimmer with painterly effects;
  • Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada;
  • His attempt at suicide, his money, his well-comported drunkenness, his loneliness, his need to linger a while longer.

His absolute selfishness reaches cruelness when he wishes the old man had succeeded in trying to commit suicide just so he could have gone home earlier that night. This contemptible behaviour is met by the older waiter with a scornful tone when he asks the younger waiter: You have no fear of going home before your usual hour?

Gale Group,pp. I am all confidence. By depositing so much confidence in things that are exterior to himself and which he cannot control, he is living with a self-deceptive shroud against nothingness that can be shattered in an instant.

On the other end, we have the old man who is the embodiment of the struggle against despair. I wrote before that he is living in a world of darkness, and we can assume that he was assailed by it because of the death of his wife. Both light and darkness are contrasting symbols in this work that are used to illustrate anxiety and fear, and the feeling of security even if temporary or artificial.

Despite the fact that he is sitting in the shadows of the well-lighted bar, the old man still needs to be involved in light. As such, he projects the image of a solitary being forever carrying his darkness with him wherever he goes. His deafness represents his alienation from society. These aspects illustrate how the old man carries himself through life. He is clean and he has dignity even when he is drunk.

His drunkenness helps him to go out of himself and maybe ease the pain and the despair that has taken over his life, but cleanliness and dignity are also another way that he has found to deal with nothingness.

In an extemporaneous dialogue with himself, the older waiter finally describes the human condition that Hemingway was so focused on: It was not a fear or dread, it was a nothing that he knew too well.

It was all a nothing and a man was a 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 all was nada y pues nada y naday pues nada.

Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be the darkness against the light in a clean well lighted place by ernest hemingway in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. In it, as Sorensen Roy shows us, he claims that: Emotions are intentional states; they are directed toward something.

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If angered, I am angry at something. If amused, there is something I find amusing. Free floating anxiety is often cited as a counterexample. But Kierkegaard says that in this case the emotion is directed at nothingness. They echo the groundlessness of human existence.

The way the older waiter handles the despair in his life is one that begs questioning but is also quite difficult to explain. He gives meaning to his life by helping others to cope with a feeling that he himself cannot quite control. He has insomnia, because the darkness of the room and the loneliness of his bed are inescapable invitations to reflection, probably on the meaninglessness of life. We can also see his struggle against loneliness in the last sentences of the text: Many must have it.

These are all again temporary solutions against nothingness. It is a very dignified and even stoic resolution, but what are the motifs behind it? There seems to be no clear answer as to why he chooses to endure with such dignity and even courage, so it can be argued that the old man is a demonstration of the application of a pragmatic morality against nothingness.

  • It will not replace experience;
  • He had been a good soldier;
  • It was not until he began English classes in school that his writing talent began to shine;
  • Where the street is darkest, only a few dimly lit windows relieve the gloom;
  • The younger waiter would like to go home to his wife and is impatient with the old man requesting more brandy;
  • Another tool used by Hemingway in this story is the symbol of Nothing.

This story exposes a completely different take on nothingness. Instead of focusing more on the internal sphere of the self and how nothingness can rise from within our personal affairs and attachments in life, it employs social alienation and post-war trauma as catalysers of nothingness. The story begins by showing us Krebs, the main character, returning from the war to a town that had already exhausted its homecoming festivities with the soldiers that had returned earlier than him.

Afterwards, we are told that Krebs first does not want to talk about the war, but when he finally feels the need to, no one wants to listen to him. This is yet another instance of how Krebs keeps getting rejected by his surroundings. This short story perfectly illustrates how and why myths are created in a community, and how prejudicial they can be to the returning soldiers. Dan Todman points out the importance of myths in a post war context and how society unites their social discourse under the influence of these: No war that killed so many people could easily be judged worthwhile.

Yet the very scale of the casualties limited the degree to which the purpose of the war could be publicly debated. Instead there arose a rhetoric of remembrance designed to console the bereaved — or at least to ease the conscience of those who had not lost their loved ones. They only want things to be how they used to before the war and fail to realize that for the traumatized soldiers, such a thing is impossible. Even though myths are often regarded as exaggerated versions of collective memories and tend to be discarded as inaccurate or fantasised versions of reality, Dan Todman defends that they serve a social purpose of facilitating communication.

In this way he lost everything. That inability of translating both to others and to himself what happened and what it meant leaves Krebs with a sense of purposelessness of his life and of the universe, in short, with nothingness.

We can draw an interesting parallelism from this to the enduring difficulty that Hemingway confessed to possess when writing for a newspaper; that of conveying what truly happened in war. All of the times that had been able to make him feel 12 Hemingway, Ernest Death in the Afternoon, Simon and Schuster, p. As Krebs realizes that he is unable to convey to others, and more importantly to himself, his own experiences from the war, he gives up trying to look for comfort in other people and turns to himself as he gropes for strategies in trying to fight off nothingness.

He turns to a life of idleness and escapism. He sleeps late, walks, eats, reads until he is bored, sits on his porch and observes, and while it is not explicitly written so, it is strongly implied that he goes about it all alone. He likes watching girls passing by, but we are repeatedly told that while he would like to get a girl, he certainly does not want to work for it: He did not want to get into the intrigue and the politics. He did not want to have to do any courting.

He did not want to tell any more lies. It wasn't worth it.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

The nothingness in his life makes everything that is even in the slightest complicated not worth it or simply meaningless. We find him more absorbed in reading books on the war, more specifically on the engagements he had been in, and studying the maps of those places. Krebs finds most comfort in reading the hard facts of the war, and maps are really important for him because they help in giving some substantiality to what happened: He had been a good soldier.

That made a difference. His mother wants him to get on with his life and find a job, and in that way she embodies the social forces that are urging him to be something, to be in some way useful.

He knows that he alone is responsible for giving meaning to his actions and his life, and that is why he decides to live a life of idleness. He is incapable of finding meaning in all the trivial things, he is discovering how he is unable to look past the meaninglessness of it all, and to prevent himself from thinking about it, Krebs resorts to living an empty and non-committing life. Either way, the solution that Krebs finally resorts to in his struggle against nothingness relies heavily on self-deception.

It could be said his only way of dealing with it is really avoiding life. The final sentence of the short story reads: He wants just to lounge around and maintain a healthy state of nothingness inside himself, and an attitude of negation to everything outside himself.