Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The short story "A Day's Wait" by Ernest Hemingway tells of a nine-year-old boy who becomes ill with a fever. His father, the narrator, sends him to bed and calls for the doctor. The doctor informs the father in the boy's presence that he has a temperature of...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The short story "A Day's Wait" by Ernest Hemingway tells of a nine-year-old boy who becomes ill with a fever. His father, the narrator, sends him to bed and calls for the doctor. The doctor informs the father in the boy's presence that he has a temperature of 102 degrees. Downstairs out of the boy's earshot, the doctor says the boy will be fine and prescribes medicine. When the father tries to read to his son, the boy seems worried and distracted and refuses to sleep.

After the father returns from hunting, the boy confesses that he is waiting to die. In France where he attended school he was told that people with temperatures above 44 would die, and his is 102. The father explains that the means of measurement are different and that the boy is in no danger. After the explanation, the boy is able to sleep, but the next day he is emotionally sensitive.

The titles of stories are very important, as they are the first things readers notice when they are considering reading a piece of literature. Authors choose titles for several reasons. For instance, some titles reflect the theme of a story, the name of the main character, or the protagonist's occupation. Other titles might use a quote from a famous poem or song.

"A Day's Wait" has a seemingly very simple title. When you first hear it, you might think of waiting for a train or a bus, waiting for a special person to arrive, or waiting for an important event. However, the title takes on great significance when you realize that the boy has not merely been waiting for an important situation or circumstance. Fully convinced that his sickness is beyond cure, the boy has been waiting to die. All day he has been waiting for his very existence to be snuffed out. When you look at the title from this perspective, it has special meaning, so yes, it is a good title.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ernest Hemingway chose the titles of his short stories with considerable care. They tend to be either allusive and descriptive ("Hills Like White Elephants," "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place") or very short and simple ("Indian Camp," "The Killers," "Cat in the Rain"). The latter style predominates and one has the sense that Hemingway preferred his titles as simple and direct as possible unless there was a very strong indication within the story of what the title ought to be.

"A Day's Wait" falls very firmly into the short and simple category: three monosyllables with approximately the same vowel sounds (exactly the same if you decided, admittedly rather artificially, to pronounce the initial "A" as "ay" rather than "uh"). Moreover, "Day's" sounds the same as "daze," a state of bewilderment and stupefaction which affects both father and son, while "Wait" is a homonym for the "weight" both have on their shoulders.

This aside, the title "A Day's Wait" perfectly suits Hemingway's iron control of his prose style. The boy is waiting for death and spends the day after the revelation of his mistake crying at things of no importance. The author, however, will not permit such hand-wringing in his prose style, which remains, like the title, laconic and unemotional.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"A Day's Wait" is an appropriate title for the story because the passage of a certain day makes all the difference in the psyche of the boy Schatz. 

Hemingway's "A Day's Wait" is what is called a slice of life story—a narrative that opens a brief window into real life and examines the philosophical implications of these moments. The narrative of "A Day's Wait" revolves around a boy's fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit that the child misinterprets as 102 degrees Celsius because he has gone to school in France.

When his father leaves Schatz alone to rest, he does not realize that his son thinks he will soon die: Poor Schatz lies awake in his room, waiting throughout the day in the belief that he will not be alive the next day.

He lay still in the bed and seemed very detached from what was going on. . . [he] refused to let any one come into the room.

When Schatz's father returns, he takes his son's temperature, and Schatz asks him what the thermometer has read. "Something like a hundred," the father lies. "It was a hundred and two," Schatz counters. Then, the father notices that Schatz has been "holding tight onto himself about something."

When the father gets Schatz to reveal what he has been thinking, he realizes that Schatz "had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine o'clock in the morning." Sadly, Schatz's "day's wait" has been unnecessarily stressful because his fever is not dangerous. His father explains the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit, and although Schatz is relieved and "the hold over himself relaxed, too," the boy is no longer the same, and he cries easily.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team