Unhappiness, discontent, or just plain everyday life – call it what you will, dissatisfaction is a pretty universal theme in the works of Mr. Ernest Hemingway. In "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," Hemingway offers a fairly pessimistic view of the world, suggesting that even people who are young, happy, and totally content will someday end up lonely, drunk, and dissatisfied. By showing us three characters in different stages of life (young, middle aged, and elderly), Hemingway depicts the way in which life grows increasingly unsatisfactory, until the only viable options are suicide or drunkenness. Depressing.
Though the younger waiter's confidence seems unshakeable, the presence of the two older men suggests that his youthful happiness will inevitably be supplanted by the discontent of old age.