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Chopin’s words

Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” and Hemingway’s “A clean well-lighted place”, written around a quarter of century apart offer striking similarities in the way natural phenomenon of storm (in the case of Chopin) and darkness and light (in Hemingway’s case) are used to the best effect to ponder on the different happenings or stations in life. Natural phenomenon used as symbols of happenings in a person’s mind in the most succinct manner make these works truly outstanding and give them an appeal that is timeless.

Storm is universally perceived as tumultuous, destructive and mostly unannounced, therefore unexpected. The arrival of storm that shuts down people from their immediate reality and makes them acutely aware and involved in the “here and now” is the first half of the focus of “The Storm”. The second half is, that, any storm makes the sunshine filled aftermath appear like a new beginning. In Chopin’s words “The rain was over; and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems. ”

The brief and unexpected affair between Calixta and Alc’ee leaves both of them refreshed to attempt to restore happiness and vigor in their respective marriages. Darkness is an oft-used symbol to denote evil or the lack of good purpose. But, in Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” darkness is used to symbolize the lack of light – of companionship, of hope, of confidence or anything that is worth looking forward to. In the smallest of short stories and without waxing eloquent about the travails of the old and their loneliness, Hemingway manages to bring about the prospect of loneliness in older people.

The young waiter who has a wife and a bed to look forward to (and obviously, the vigor to enjoy company, given his age) is the reminder ot the readers that all things, taken for granted in youth suddenly become unachievable with age – and the quest for a clean and well lighted place, a place that may not constantly remind old people of their infirmities or loneliness are difficult to come about. The character of the older waiter who is quite close to the stage of the old customer is the bridge between the young waiter’s points of view and the old customer’s predicament in life.

“It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. ” The ability to fuse natural phenomenon of regular occurrence to symbolize the affairs of a human mind is a unique ability attained by a very few writers. The ability to accomplish all this in the span of a short story is of highest literary quality because as long as these natural phenomenons occur, the happenings in the bosoms of the characters in these short stories will continue to elicit sympathetic understanding form the readers.

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