A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

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"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"
Author Ernest Hemingway
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Short story
Publication type Periodical
Media type Print
Publication date 1933

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is a short story by American author Ernest Hemingway, first published in Scribner's Magazine in 1933; it was also included in his collection Winner Take Nothing (1933).

Plot synopsis[edit]

Late at night, an old man is the sole patron in a cafe; nearby the two waiters, one young, the other older, talk about him. On the street outside a young woman and a soldier walk by, and the younger waiter becomes impatient. He suggests the patron is out too late; the guard might pick him up. Instead of leaving, the old man orders another brandy; the waiter purposefully overfills the cup, slopping brandy into the saucer. The waiters speculate about the old man's recent suicide attempt, the gossip that he hanged himself with a rope, but his niece cut him down. The young waiter wants the patron to go home, he complains that he never gets to bed before three o'clock, while the older waiter is more conciliatory. Again the old man asks for another brandy, but this time the young man denies it to him. Counting his saucers, the old man reaches into his coin purse and pays for the drinks, leaving a tip. The two waiters watch him go. The two waiters resume their discussion. The young waiter wants to hurry home to his wife; the older waiter is more thoughtful. He muses on the benefits of youth, observes that he is no longer such, but is now "of those who like to stay late in the cafe," likening himself to the recently departed old man.

Historical reaction by other authors[edit]

James Joyce once remarked: "He [Hemingway] has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do. Have you read 'A Clean Well-Lighted Place'?...It is masterly. Indeed, it is one of the best short stories ever written..." [1]


  • In A.E. Hotchner's biography Papa Hemingway, Hemingway is quoted saying that this might be his favourite story. [2]


  1. ^ "Lost Generation"
  2. ^ Hotchner, A.E. (1966). Papa Hemingway. London: Mayflower Books. p. 141. 

External links[edit]