Study Guide

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Drugs and Alcohol

By Ernest Hemingway

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Drugs and Alcohol

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"
The Old Man

"A little more," he said. The waiter poured on into the glass so that the brandy slopped over and ran down the stem into the top saucer of the pile. "Thank you," the old man said. The waiter took the bottle back inside the cafe. He sat down at the table with his colleague again.

"He's drunk now," he said.

"He's drunk every night." (8-9)

Here, we see the old man's dependence on alcohol; he needs to be drunk every night to survive everyday life.

The old man looked from his glass across the square, then over at the waiters.

"Another brandy," he said, pointing to his glass. The waiter who was in a hurry came over.

"Finished," he said, speaking with that omission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners. "No more tonight. Close now."

"Another," said the old man. (10)

The young waiter, unsympathetic to the old man's troubles, is incredibly condescending to the drunk man, as though his drunkenness means that he's stupid. However, being drunk certainly doesn't signal being oblivious here – the implication is that the old man knows better than the young one.

Younger Waiter

"You talk like an old man yourself. He can buy a bottle and drink at home."

"It's not the same."

"No, it is not," agreed the waiter with a wife. He did not wish to be unjust. He was only in a hurry. (13)

Why should it be any different to drink alone in a well-lit café, or to drink alone at home? Even the impatient waiter agrees that these are two different things – drinking at the café means something much more, though what exactly that is, we're uncertain.

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