What is the theme of "A Day's Wait"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This "slice of life" short story explores the philosophical implications of a few moments in a life that often make so much difference in one's life. Here are two themes to this story:

  • Miscommunication can have tragic effects

Nine-year-old Schatz's psyche is shattered after a doctor pronounces his temperature as one hundred and two degrees because he misinterprets this number as Celsius degrees and not Farenheit. Thus, his interpretation of his fever creates traumatic effects because Schatz fears he will die. As a result of his fear, Schatz tries to be brave and tells his father that he can leave his room if he would like. When his father does leave because he does not perceive danger in Schatz's fever, not comprehending the circumstances regarding Schatz's decision, Schatz is affected by what he interprets as his father's desertion. He, therefore, loses his courageous determination,

The hold over himself relaxed too, finally, and the next day it was very slack and he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance.

  • A single event can have lasting effects

After his great scare of death, Schatz is no longer the happy, confident boy he has once been. His "hold over himself relaxed too...." He is overly sensitive, crying over insignificant things as the memory of his trauma looms over him.  For, the memory and threat of death has altered Schatz forever.

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