In "A Day's Wait," how does the father explain the mistake to the son? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Hemingway's "slice of life" story, a son lies ill for a day, believing that he is going to die as a result of his high temperature. Left alone to agonize over his condition, the boy's long day's wait for death affects him so profoundly that he becomes detached after his misunderstanding of the difference between Celsius and Farenheit temperatures of 102 degrees. Whereas a temperature of 102 F is only about four degrees above normal, in Cesius, it would mean brain injury and death.

When his father returns from having been out hunting quail since the doctor has seen Schatz and given him medicine, he finds his son "holding tight onto himself about something." The boy asks, "About what time do you think I'm going to die?" It is then that the father realizes that poor Schatz has become overwrought, fearing his death. And, he explains the difference in thermometers, suddenly realizing,

He had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine o'clock in the morning. 

The day's wait for death, however, has had a tremendous affect upon Schatz, who now is detached somewhat from life after his ordeal as he "cried very easily at little things that were of no importance."