A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
How we cite our quotes:
"Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said.
"He was in despair."
"Nothing" seems like an inconsequential thing here – but by the end of the story, we see that the concept of nothingness takes on a whole new depth. The nothingness of the world as the older waiter and the old man see it might in fact be a real cause for suicide.
The old man looked at him. "Another brandy," he said.
"You'll be drunk," the waiter said. The old man looked at him. The waiter went away.
"He'll stay all night," he said to his colleague. "I'm sleepy now. I never get into bed before three o'clock. He should have killed himself last week."
The waiter took the brandy bottle and another saucer from the counter inside the cafe and marched out to the old man's table. He put down the saucer and poured the glass full of brandy.
"You should have killed yourself last week," he said to the deaf man. (6-7)
The lack of seriousness about death that the younger waiter displays shows his naïveté – at this early stage in his life, death isn't a serious issue, and he's not afraid of it.
"What did he want to kill himself for?"
"How should I know."
"How did he do it?"
"He hung himself with a rope."
"Who cut him down?"
"Why did he do it?"
"For his soul." (9)
This is curious – the older waiter asserts that the old man tried to kill himself "for his soul." We wonder if he might somehow be trying to save his soul by dying, and thus escaping the crushing reality of mortal life.