The setting plays an important role in the short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway. It acts as a symbol of an existential craving for comfort, order, security and life.
The physical setting or the literal setting is a café at nighttime, somewhere in Spain or a Spanish speaking country. The depiction of this almost romantic night setting opens the story: “It was very late and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light.” (p.1, ll. 1-2)
The social setting is also hinted at not only through language, but also through references to the young couple and the guard, suggesting everything might happen during war time.
“A girl and a soldier went by in the street. The street light shone on the brass number on his collar. The girl wore no head covering and hurried beside him.
The guard will pick him up," one waiter said.” (p. 1, ll. 16-19)