What is the meaning of the story title "A Day's Wait"?

The story title "A Day's Wait" refers to the time the father in the story thinks he has to wait to see if his son's illness will turn into pneumonia. However, due to a confusion between the temperature scales of Fahrenheit and Celsius, the boy believes that he is waiting to die and may only have another day to live.

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The significance of the title has to do with the word "wait," and what it means, in this context, to wait for something. Waiting is something you do until something else happens. Clearly, that "something else" is different for the father and the boy.

The boy, superficially, is waiting to die: he doesn't understand the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit, and thinks his temperature of 102 will be fatal. What's left to our imagination is what is going on in the boy's head, if he thinks he is going to die. He seems listless and distracted; he tells his father he doesn't have to stay if he doesn't want to; in hind sight, it's clear he is being incredibly brave.

It's not so clear whether the boy thinks the father knows he will die, however. If we think he does, then the boy must see his death as a kind of terrible secret not to be openly spoken about. In that sense, his emotional detachment is a kind of masculine denial of emotion, something he has learned from his father.

The father, on the other hand, has more mundane things to wait for. He's literally waiting to dispense medicine. He knows the boy is in no real danger, so he is also waiting for him to improve, or at least cheer up a bit. His reading of the pirate story is less about entertaining the boy than getting him to hurry up.

At one point, he does leave to go shooting, and Hemingway renders the details of this excursion—how many birds were killed, how the dog was, slipping on ice and dropping the gun—perhaps even more vividly than the details of the actual story about the boy. One way to think about that is that, for the father, the business of hunting and the business of nursing his son are all the same. Hemingway of course makes no comment on any of this; he's good at making dots in that way and leaving it to the reader to connect them.

This concept of "waiting," then, both suggests that the present moment of the story is less interesting somehow than what will come after and highlights the emotional separation of boy and father, who, on the one hand, are too busy "waiting" for various things to emotionally connect, and, on the other, are nonetheless bound to each other through this mutual denial of connection.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 24, 2020
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Ernest Hemingway's "iceberg" style of writing is characterized by the use of simple laconic phrases with strong feelings below the surface. This is also true of his titles, and "A Day's Wait" is a prime example.

Both father and son have a day to wait, but they are waiting for very different things. The father is waiting to see whether the boy's temperature will rise, putting him in danger of pneumonia. This would be worrying, though still unlikely to be fatal. The boy, however, is waiting to die.

One might read this story as an indictment of the stoical, masculine values Hemingway is generally regarded as espousing. The boy endures agonies of suspense and fear because he is determined to face his death with fortitude. However, he only believes he is going to die because of a confusion between Celsius and Fahrenheit, which is easily explained as soon as he tells his father what is wrong. However, the father's style of speaking, and even the simple title of the story, suggest that Schatz has not been raised to share his fears and feelings. The title of the story is simple, unemotional, and descriptive of the facts, just as both father and son have been taught they should be, particularly when referring to any weakness.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 24, 2020
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The title "A Day's Wait" refers to the time period in which a young boy learns the significant difference between Centigrade and Fahrenheit.

In the story, Schatz is afflicted with a bad case of influenza. He learns that his temperature is a hundred and two degrees. The doctor fails to mention, however, that this measurement of his temperature is in Fahrenheit. Unbeknownst to the doctor, the boy believes he is going to die; he does not realize that body temperatures can be measured in either Centigrade or Fahrenheit.

Fearing that his life is at an end, Schatz wills himself to remain stoic. He reigns in his emotions and tries to face death with courage. Schatz even forbids others from entering his room; he does not want anyone to catch what he has. Meanwhile, his white face testifies to his intense emotional struggle. It is only after his father apprises him of the truth that Schatz begins to relax. So, the title refers to the time period in which a young boy learns the importance of verified knowledge. Schatz comes to understand that there is a significant difference between Centigrade and Fahrenheit.

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This wonderful short story by Ernest Hemingway details the illness suffered by young Schatz and his misunderstood seriousness of the diagnosis. Schatz overhears his doctor tell his father that his temperature is "102 degrees." Having attended school in Europe, he is not used to the Fahrenheit scale: Instead, he thinks the temperature is being calculated on the Celsius scale. Schatz realizes that no one could live long with a temperature of 102 degrees Celsius (beyond the boiling point), so he silently and patiently awaits his death during the day's long wait.

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