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A Days Wait

"A Day's Wait" (1936) is a brief story by Ernest Hemingway that conveys the seemingly

tragic outcome of miscommunication between a boy and his father. Schatz is a nine-year-old boy

who becomes sick. The doctor conveys that Schatz has contracted the flu and has a high fever. It

is considered only a mild case, and the doctor leaves medicine for the boy. The boy overhears the

physician tell the father that the temperature is 102 degrees. It is this information that causes

the perceived conflict and misunderstanding between the boy and his father.

Schatz is put to bed, and his father maintains a steady watch over him, reading from a

book about pirates. But Schatz seems unusually detached and when his father suggests he get

some sleep, the boy refuses. The father reads to himself for a while, but the boy remains awake.

He tells the father to leave if it bothers him. Thinking that the boy is simply a bit light-headed,

the father leaves the room and takes the family dog for a walk along the frozen creek.

When the father returns, Schatz is still white-faced at the foot of the bed. After the father

takes Schatz's temperature, the boy demands to know what it was. His temperature is 102

degree. The boy suddenly asks, "About what time do you think I'm going to die?". The stunned

father tells him all will be okay, and calls it silly talk. But then Schatz explains: "At school in

France the boys told me you can't live with forty-four degrees." The father explains the

difference between Fahrenheit and Celsius thermometers, comparing them to miles and

kilometers. Then the boy slowly relaxes.

This story deals with the familiar Hemingway theme of heroic fatalism or fatalistic

heroism, namely courage in the face of certain death which is exhibited by the boy.