[Not] For Technophobes

         a qwriting.qc.cuny.edu blog

November 21, 2010

”Our nada who art in nada…” and Hopper’s Nighthawks

Filed under: Uncategorized — E. A. @ 12:42 pm

The light in the painting is similar to the blinding daylight, unobstructed and glaring, but this light does not drive the customers away. The customers seem to lean into the light. It makes me wonder what metaphorical darkness they are running away from, or, rather, avoiding at all costs. The light creates a barrier in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) that protects and shields the patrons from the dark light of the night. What is the dark light of the night? There is an example in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” (1926) that reads, “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.” The dark light of the night is the shadow that something natural makes against the bright florescent lights. These three patrons are avoiding the natural darkness of the world and they find solace in Phillies, a very well-lighted bar. However, because of all the light and subsequent lack of darkness these patrons and the barista/bartender are finding peace in nothing. Everything is white and clean and void of all markers of the natural world. These people are making themselves invisible to the actual world, “Our nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada.”

So, why would Hopper create this painting? In my opinion this painting is the perfect representation of a technological world that had forgotten its natural roots; therefore, it knows not how to approach nature and natural cycle. Instead of going home at night they spend the entire night in a diner that is as bright as daylight. We have fast food places that are very much the modern representation of this painting. Papaya Dog in the village is always well lit, even in the middle of the day; there is also Five Guys Burgers and Fries on 188th St in Fresh Meadows and College Point. These artificially bright places provide a false comfort for the insomniac, or the city-dweller. What is most interesting is that even though many people go to these bright places and do the same things, they always seem to be alone and this does not change. There is loneliness in people who hide in bright lights and Hemingway touches on this aspect of humanity when he writes, “Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the cafe.”


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