One of the most interesting authors in modern American literature is without a doubt Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1899; he started writing at the age of seventeen for a newspaper office in Kansas City. When the United States entered World War I, he joined in as a volunteer ambulance driver for the Italian army. Upon his return to the United States he worked for many Canadian and American newspapers. He started writing his novels in the 20’s and you can see in his works that his life experiences influenced his writing very much. Hemingway was an avid sportsman. In every aspect of his life he was highly decorated; in war he earned a Silver Medal of Military Valor (c. WWI), and a Bronze star (1947); in writing he earned the Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea (1953), the Nobel Prize for Literature (1954), and was honored as the Top Reporter of the Last Hundred Years by the Kansas City Star in 1999.
Two of Hemingway’s early works were “Soldier’s Home” (1925) and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (1926).
In Soldier’s Home we meet Krebs, a young man who has recently returned home from WWI who is having trouble adjusting to life after the war. In A Clean, Well-Lighted Place you are brought in to a café where two waiters wait for their last customer, a deaf old man, to leave. Both of these stories deal with men that felt alone in their lives and struggled to understand why. Isolation is the core feeling in both of these stories, both Krebs and the old man desire people in their lives but have trouble relating to people on a personal level. Krebs desire is women, he fells himself being drawn to them but, has never fallen in love with one. The old def man has experienced love and the love of his life has passed away, and now the loneliness consumes everything that he understands.
Militarism – The arms race of the early 1900s was a key precipitating factor in the outbreak of World War I. Starting in 1870, Germany and France doubled their armies, and Germany and Britain entered into a naval arms race, each strengthening its fleet to keep up with the other. When the British Royal Navy introduced the Dreadnought in 1906, Germany introduced a number of its own battle ships in ...
“Solder’s Home” takes place in 1919 in a solder’s home. Throughout the tale we travel onto his front porch where he watches people pass by, and into his small city where he watches “good-looking young girls” that have all grown since he was last home. The setting in this story is very important to the tale because his home is a place where he should feel comfortable with his family and the people around him. Also the time that he returned from the war prevented him from having a “hero’s welcome” which had an effect on caused his feeling of abandonment.
It’s late at night in a lonely cafe where an “old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light,” this is where we meet two waiters and an old man who is reading a book and sipping brandy. Throughout the short story we are taken in and out of the cafe. We do not see any indication of a year that this story takes place but with the time it was written we envision a city street in the early to mid 20’s. One of the waiters along with the old man has feelings of loneliness and love for the night.
The after affects of a war always have an effect on people and Hemingway shows us this in Solders Home. Krebs is obviously dealing with the after affects of the war, we see this in many ways, first we see his discomfort when speaking about the war to others, and when he does get the chance to speak about it he lies about his experiences. Another issue that we see in this story is that Krebs has lost his ability to love and feel for people; however we do see a lot of caring for his younger sister when he agrees to go watch her pitch. Now obviously Krebs cares for his family and for people because he feels remorse when he upsets them in any way. War a lot of times will give people a spiritual awakening, but in this case he has lost all respect for religion. We don’t see him specify denounce his religion, however, he cannot pray which upsets his mother. What you must realize about this is that in today’s society there are many views but in the 20’s religion was a part of your life.
One of the things that were important at war was that the Blacks proving themselves was that of the Black Man acting as a soldier in the Civil War. During the Civil War the decision to use Blacks as soldiers in the Union Army was a slow and not very wanted process and a different types of strategic political decisions. The black people wouldnt be a soldier just like that they would do different ...
Krebs views on women and work have changed a lot since the war. When speaking with his mother before breakfast you see that he has been home almost a month and has given no thought to where he wants to work or what he wants to do. His views on women are quite possibly one of the more intriguing parts of the story, on one hand you can see that he is attracted to the women in the town, but the closer they get to him the less he likes them, and we are not talking about getting personally close, but their actual location is what changes his opinion. We see traces of him wanting to be with women when Krebs says “he would have liked a girl if she had come to him and not wanted to talk.”
The conflict in “Solder’s Home” is Krebs adjustment to life back in the states. Although we do not see a resolution to this conflict in the story we do see that he cares for his sister very much and wants to make her happy. Perhaps this is a start of him returning to society. This is very similar to what we see in “A Clean Well-Lighted Place,” not in returning from war but having a feeling of loneliness and being alone. In both stories we sympathize with the characters because we all feel alone at some point in our lives. Now in “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” there is a conflict of interests between two waiters one of which wants to go home and see his wife while the older waiter has no wife so he sympathizes with the old man who is keeping them there. Our conflict is at first glance with the old man leaving the cafe but by the end of the story the conflict is with the older waiter and his understanding of wanting to have a drink in a clean well lit place.
When the shop finally closes we learn that the older waiter as well as the old man each prefers to stay awake until dawn. There are various other hints that the older waiter cannot sleep besides his assumption of insomnia, he states “with all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night.” He is hinting to the fact that he sees a light or a positive energy in the light of the night which is why he understands that the older man likes the well lit cafe. He sympathizes with the old man, he too understands the value of a nice clean place to read and relax outside of the loneliness in his home. The cafe represents their friend something that is there when they need it and gives them an opportunity to engage with other people. I understand what Hemingway is showing his readers because I worked for a few years bartending at a clean well lit martini bar and I had a few great regulars that would use the bar as a place to relax before heading home, and there were days I felt like a preacher in a confessional with people talking about things that most would not say to friends because I was a neutral party that for the most part would agree with them. Most people may not realize it but that is why they talk to bartenders, they are always agreeable and nice. Its how a bartender makes his money by making them happy.
Other than the sweltering heat in the summer time in Oklahoma City, the only dilemma are tornadoes. I grew up in the middle of this tornado alley and eventually developed a sixth sense for detecting tornadic activity. Even in the 1980s tornadoes were known for their violent crime wave, vandalizing neighborhoods and kidnapping children and adults. Imagine a beautiful evening in Moore, a suburb ...
In both of these story’s we see moments where there is a distrust for religion, in “Solder’s Home” it is his refusal to pray with his mother, while in “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” it is a rant where the older waiter is speaking a prayer and replacing many words with “nada” showing that this is a disbelief in a empty system they see. Religion was something that was very important during the times these two stories were written. Obviously both of these men felt alone in their lives not being able to relate to something that everyone else accepted as a truth, which could be the primary reason they both fell alone.
Ernest Hemingway is a classic American writer, dealing with issues that plagued his generation. At a time when much of the country was getting over the war he was writing about how he felt and I am sure many men found comfort knowing they were not alone. Along with Hemingway many soldiers may have been having doubts about religion and life in general he was supplying therapy to himself and tens of thousands of other troops. There is a classic quote by Ambrose Bierce an American writer in the late 1800’s that “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” reminded me of: “Dawn: When men of reason go to bed.“