Ernest Hemingway once said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places” (“Quotations by Author”). Unfortunately. In his lifetime, this was not the case. Hemingway did not become stronger in the end. He was a broken man, and a substantial amount of his work reflected this part of him. Of all his short stories, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” best illustrates Hemingway’s mental digression, and the depression that plagued his everyday life. This story follows a few waiters serving a depressed, older man at their cafe, after a long day’s work. As it gets later, one waiter becomes impatient and wants to leave, while the other waiter is understanding of the customer’s struggles. Throughout the story, biographical criticism, characterization, and bibliomancy reveals Ernest Hemingway’s message that life is inherently meaningless and worth nothing.
Hemingway’s personal life was a battle against mental illness as he struggled with intense alcoholism and depression. His mental illness was so severe near the end of his life that attempted suicide multiple times and he even attempted electroshock therapy, which is the last resort in the medical field. However, even the electroshock therapy proved unsuccessful, and Hemingway eventually committed suicide in 1961 (“Ernest Hemingway”). Hemingway’s death was foreshadowed by his family in that their family members had also committed suicide including his father, sister, and brother (Harris and Armour). “[When] Hemingway discovered that his father had committed suicide … [h]e began to have premonitions that he would [also] end his life by his own hand” (“Ernest Hemingway”). One could say that Hemingway essentially spoke his words into existence, for he acted ...
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...r from the bible, which gives many people purpose, and calling it nothing, Hemingway is demonstrating the belief of existentialism and literally saying that life is “nada” or nothing.
Throughout the story, Hemingway is extremely purposefully in his characterization and use of bibliomancy in communicating his message that life useless and insignificant. Understanding Hemingway’s life in connection with his story is vital in understanding his message. Hemingway lived most of his life believing that life itself, was nothing, which is no way to live. He lived as the characters in his story did. However, people should live for what there is, and not for what is lacking. People should search for the good in everything. Therefore, when lost and without nothing, like the older waiter and the old man, people should appreciate and seek after, a clean and well-lighted place.
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