’s Symbolism Essay, Research Paper
An Interpretation of Earnest Hemingway’s Symbolism
In order to understand symbolism, a reader must learn that it is a non-superficial representation of an idea or belief that goes beyond what is “seen.” Earnest Hemingway’s “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” uses symbolism to help convey the theme of Nihilism, the philosophy that there is nothing heavenly to believe in. It discusses that there is no supernatural reason or explanation of how the world is today. Three symbols: the soldier, the caf?, and the shadows of the leaves, found in Hemingway’s short story clearly displays this Nihilistic theme.
The first clear display of Nihilism by the use of symbols is the brief passage description of the soldier passing the caf? with the prostitute. This imagery symbolizes that love and romance has been degraded to a level of “anonymous” sex. Nihilism ties into this fact that since there is no longer any form of pure love, why should a person believe in it? Hemingway uses an excellent form of symbolism to help convey this thought in referring that the street light shone on the brass number of the soldier’s collar. The passage about light, which represents safety, is also written with the guard accompanying the young girl for sex that has nothing to do with love, but only of pleasure. The light is supposed to let the reader see that the guard is corrupt when he should be a loyal and an example to the community.
Hemingway’s second portrayal of symbolism that a reader may distinguish is the caf? itself. The caf? represents a sanctuary of the evilness of the world. The namesake of the short story is a clue for the reader to see that the caf? would represent some form of an asylum not only from the elements of nature, but also safety from evil. An example of the usefulness of this sanctuary is how the deaf old man uses the caf? as a safe-haven to be to himself after the incident where he almost succeeded in committing suicide and enjoys the comfort the caf? gives. The old waiter
represents in the caf? the kindness and caring that the caf? should provide; whereas the younger waiter is more of a materialistic character. He clearly displays shallowness and selfishness. Arthur Waldhorn writes that the older waiter helps keep the light on a little longer at the caf? for those, who like himself, ‘do not want to go to bed.’ (P 28) The younger waiter is a protagonist in attitude of the older waiter. The philosophy of Nihilism is brought into this theme when the older man recites the Lord’s Prayer but substitutes the word “nada” for every noun in it. Nihilism is brought onto a larger scale because it is very evident that there is nothing to believe in, even as a prayer.
The shadow of the leaves is the third and main symbol Hemingway uses to show how Nihilism is a valid philosophy. In the story, the old man sat in the shadows of the leaves of a tree that moves slightly in the wind. A reader can interpret the leaves to represent a form of protection from the light; the light being used to show the good-nature and pureness of what it shines on. The old man also sat alone under the leaves so he would not be exposed to the light completely possibly to hide the reason why he tried to commit suicide. The shadows of the leaves represent righteousness and virtue that is good, and the leaves represented protection from the light, which is also as good. Instead of being in constant connection with the light, the shadows are also a safe-haven for those who want to be alone and to themselves. Hemingway’s symbol of the shadows of the leaves also conveys the Nihilistic theme in the sense that sometimes a person must not be protected and that that person must at one point think that there is nothing to believe in.
Therefore, Earnest Hemingway uses his symbols in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” excellently to show how the belief in Nihilism can be valid. Using the soldier’s sexual craving, the caf?, and the shadow of the leaves, Hemingway proved that there are times in which a person can believe that there are no supernatural reasons of why the world exists how we see it