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Robert Penn Warren

One day Robert Penn Warren has said that “the typical Hemingway hero is the man aware, or in the process of becoming aware, of nada.” Thus, the main aim of this project is to explain the above stated Warren’s claim in the context of a story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway.

In “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” the author pays our attention on the pain of an old age person, who suffered from different things in the frames of his own reality. Three stages of life, such as birth, living and death, are brightly depicted in the story and three characters symbolize them in a good way. Three symbols, or it will be better to say images, are light and dark, as an attempt to show the main difference between the young people and the old man; man’s deafness, as a kind of separation of this person from the rest society and reality; and ‘nada’ as an end of all in the world.

First of all it is necessary to mention that the concept of ‘nada’ has its interesting and extraordinary meaning in Hemingway’s literature. It even seems that Hemingway’s ‘nada’ is the concept that was used in accordance with author’s specific philosophy and life position. Exploring ‘nada’, Hemingway in many cases appealed to the dark side of human nature and showed readers confrontation of different positions in human mind and consciousness.

According to Hemingway, a man is born in an absolutely indifferent and completely naturalistic universe: a universe without miraculous sanction, and that is why without special purpose, meaning, value or some order. In such a way the ‘nada’ focuses on person’s confrontation with the absence of some order and God, with the presence of indifference and seeming to be true hostility of the surrounding universe, and to top it all, the absence of the above numerated notions as purpose, order, value and meaning not only in the universe, but also in human life.

Thinking about the word ‘nada’ in its essence we see that in English it basically means ‘nothing’. But relating this concept to Hemingway’s works of literature, exactly discussing it in the frames of the story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”, we see that it means much more than the simple and often used word nothing. It is important to think about the meaning of the term ‘nada’ for the main protagonist of the story, because it allows him to be away from the world around him, from his pain and loneliness. It seems that the person is tired to live during a day, because he hears nothing and feels his absence in the surrounding world, thus, he trying to visit café at night, when it is calm and quite there and he has nothing to loose due to his deafness.

Analyzing the story it becomes obvious that the idea of ‘nada’ is good explained by the older waiter monologue when he was talking about the nada, and quoting this part from the story we see the following: “What did he fear? 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 init 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 nada 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. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine.” (Hemingway,1990) It looks like a prayer where instead of ‘Our Father’ and ‘Kingdom’ were used ‘nada’ and exactly ‘nada’ was presented as an end of everything. Thus, it is necessary to ask the Lord for ‘nada’ or maybe not the Lord, but ask the ‘nada’ for ‘nada’.

To sum up, it is possible to say in conclusion that the concept of ‘nada’ opens us the hidden essence of the novel, because nothing is the end for everything and at this end will appear a clean, well-lighted place, the Heavenly (New) Jerusalem without night and insomnia. There is no doubt that Hemingway explains his position of nada in his own specific way, using specific protagonist for this aim, but exactly to such author’s hidden hints every person has an opportunity to form own opinion and think about eternal things among the problems of contemporary fussy world.


Work cited:

Hemingway, E. A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. Creative Education, 1990.