A Clean Well Lighted Place: Character Profiles
Old ManThe elderly, deaf gentleman who drinks gracefully near the back of the café, outside, is the main subject of discussion for the waiters, who are starting to close up for the night. The waiters gossip with one another about the man's attempted suicide the previous week, and speculate about other aspects of his life. It seems the man drinks at the café every night, alone, to pass the time in a clean, well-lighted environment.
Young WaiterThe young waiter is impatient with the old man, hoping to return home to his wife by a decent hour. He doesn't understand how important it is to offer such a clean, well-lighted place to his customer.
Older WaiterThe veteran waiter, like Hemingway, understands the deeper things in life, believing strongly that he must keep the café open in order to let others stay in the light, as he wishes also to remain in the light. Unable to bear the darkness of his world, the waiter walks the streets late in the night, not being able to sleep until morning.