Attempt a comparative reading of ‘A Clean Well-lighted Place’ and ‘The Bear'
English Literature

Attempt a comparative reading of A Clean Well-lighted Place and The Bear MEG 06

The story of “A Clean Well-Lit Place” and “The Bear” are completely distinct. The first is about an elderly man’s horrible destiny, and it takes just a few hours and less than four pages to finish; the second is about an adolescent’s ‘growing up.’ It covers a period of more than ten years and is more than a hundred pages long. The former utilises a minimalist narrative, snippets of conversation, and a small cast of characters; the later is written in a free-flowing rhetorical narrative that introduces a wide variety of characters. In the first tale, not much occurs; but, in the second, there is a lot of action. To go through their particular characteristics in more detail: Thematically, “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” depicts the despondent situation of an elderly man in his eighties, bereaved of his wife and children, nearly deaf, and unstable on his feet, who tried suicide the week before. He is the last and last client in a spotless, well-lit café, and he remains and drinks until the servers close the shutters. His poverty, illness, handicaps, and loneliness are all reflected in the stark emptiness he now finds himself in, which Carlos Baker describes as  “There is something called Nothing that is so huge, terrible, overbearing, inevitable, and omnipresent that it can never be forgotten once experienced.

In contrast to this depressing subject, “The Bear” focuses on Ike, a descendant of the famous Old Carothers who, under the guidance of Sam Fathers in the wilderness, learns hunting skills as well as the bravery and compassion that only humans are capable of. Against the pragmatic concerns of otherwise well-disposed McCaslin and others, he is befittingly chosen to lead the last, victorious hunt of old Ben.

In terms of setting, it appears that “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” is set in an anonymous location because such ceaseless assaults of nothingness could have struck any old man in any country; however, “The Bear’s” story of chase, land appropriation, and racial discrimination is naturally integrated in the particularity and peculiarity of the American South and the intertwined fabric of its community.

In the two tales, there are two main characters. Through the occasional pieces of dialogue between the two servers (one young and the other elderly) in the café, “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” conveys their characteristics as well as those of the old guy. We see the young waiter’s halted myopic awareness, which reveals his shaky feeling of security. He is confident, youthful, and has a wife and a career, but he is too self-contained and engrossed in the here and now to perceive, much less imagine, that youth entails ageing, confidence entails loss of confidence, marriage entails absence of wife, and work entails job loss. The elderly waiter, in contrast to his misunderstanding and insensitivity to the old man’s gnawing sorrow, displays more awareness, human care, and empathy. He expresses his displeasure with the young waiter’s excessive haste in forcing the elderly man to leave the café, and he expresses his sympathy “With all those who like to stay late at the cafe. With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night  .” In comparison to “The Bear,” “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” has a much smaller cast of characters and a much smaller scale of characterisation “which has a cast of people from the hunting world as well as the American South. Among them, Sam Fathers is ‘the leader, the prince,’ who, although working for Major de Spain, nourishes the ferocious Lion (the dog he caught) with remarkable talents and perseverance in order to drive it to hold and bay Old Ben, despite empathising with this famous head bear. He has enormous reservoirs of human bravery and compassion, endurance, dignity, and humility, which Ike learns from him as he matures from a raw, unknowing teenager to a mellowing, understanding adolescent. Ike also learns from him how to accept the fight for life in the woods, with a particular emphasis on the concept of coexistence between man and animals. All of this contrasts sharply with Boon’s natural possessiveness. Despite his courage and loyalty to Major de Spain and McCaslin, Boon remains “violent, insensitive, and untrustworthy.” His eyes, in particular, are “without depth, meanness, generosity, viciousness, tenderness, or anything else,” much like Lion’s, according to Faulkner. Lion also mixes ‘unbroken bravery’ and ‘indomitable spirit’ with a ‘cold and emotionless malignance’ and a ‘desire to hunt and kill’ in its own unique way. Many additional characters in “The Bear” have significant characteristics that may be highlighted as well. In this tale, they successfully demonstrate a far wider variety of personalities than in “A Clean Well-Lighted Place.”


Attempt a comparative reading of A Clean Well-lighted Place and The Bear MEG 06

IGNOU MA English IGNOU MEG Solved Assignment English Literature


To get to the modes of writing, “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” uses verbal restraint and strategies of implications and indirections, whereas “The Bear” uses verbal profusion, narrative recall techniques (involving the presentness of the past and the pastness of the present), and occasional flashes of the stream-of-consciousness. Aside from its limited storyline and fewer characters, the one seldom portrays any event or occurrence; the other, on the other hand, contains a plethora of events and incidents. The one characterises the absolutely scary, despairing ‘nothingness’ afflicted by an old man via the use of an unreliable symbol of a clean, well-lit cafe, as well as the ironies involved in the younger waiter’s unawareness and the older waiter’s awareness: the other crams and crowds the narrative and uses recalls and streams-of-consciousness to achieve Ike’s steady maturing. The one accumulates intensities and keeps densities out, whereas the other is dense and intense at the same time. Indeed, the two styles of writing, constrained and expansive, are related to the critical battle fought on the issue of the proper degree of expression, which is best represented in Scott Fitzgerald’s and Thomas Wolfe’s letters from the 1930s.

Clearly, glorifying one style of writing at the cost of another is pointless. Neither of them has a guarantee of success. It is dependent on the practitioner, as to what he makes or fails to create of it, on how effectively he organises and executes his material, and with what strengths, depth, and artistry he does it. In this light, Hemingway’s frightening tiny masterpiece (“A Clean Well-Lighted Place”) is as tragic and fascinating as Faulkner’s epic hunt tale and its engrossing aftermath (“The Bear”).

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