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What are the themes of the story "A Day's Wait" by Ernest Hemingway ?

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pavni123abc | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 24, 2012 at 5:27 AM via web

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What are the themes of the story "A Day's Wait" by Ernest Hemingway ?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 25, 2012 at 3:25 AM (Answer #1)

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Hemingway's "slice of life" story of a boy named Schatz who suffers from a fever one day and experiences a tumult of emotions, demonstrates two themes:

The Importance of Single Events

Nine-year-old Schatz appears "very detached from what was going on" after the doctor visits the sick boy and announces that he has a 102 degree fever. Instead of sleeping, Schatz stares at the foot of the bed and tells his father that he can leave "if it bothers you."  After his father departs and then returns, Schatz "holds tight into himself about something."  Believing that his temperature is dangerously high, the boy perceives the incident of his acquiring a fever as a life-threatening situation.  When he survives his fever, Schatz is a changed child, for now "he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance."

The Tragic Results of Miscommunication

After the departure of the doctor, the father does not discuss the physicians's remarks with Schatz, assuming that his son understands that his 102 fever is not serious.  However, Schatz mistakes Farenheit for Centigrade and believes himself very ill.  Even when he tells his father, "You can't come in...you mustn't get what I have," his father still does not realize what his son means.

This miscommunication between parent and child has devastating results. For, Schatz, who is much too young to have been confronted by thoughts of his imminent death, recovers from his fever physically, but not mentally.  Henceforth, he has only a slight "hold over himself and he "cried very easily at little things that were of no importance," no longer possessing his courageous determination.

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