Why does the boy cry easily over things the next day in "A Day's Wait"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The boy cries easily over things the day after he has had a rather high fever because he has been completely unnerved by his impression that he was going to die.

On the day that Schatz comes down with a high fever, his father summons the doctor, who checks the boy and diagnoses a case of influenza. Outside the boy's room, the father asks what his son's temperature is, and the doctor replies, "One hundred and two." Then the doctor administers some medication for the father to give his son. When he returns to the boy's room, the father notices that his son lies very still and "seem[s] very detached from what was going on."

While the father waits for the time to administer another capsule to his son, he reads aloud to the boy. After a while, he remarks that the boy should naturally fall asleep, but Schatz instead stares at the foot of the bed, "looking very strangely." However, the boy does not tell his father what bothers him. Instead, he says, "You don't have to stay in here with me, Papa, if it bothers you."

Unfortunately, the father believes that his son is merely lightheaded from the fever, so he goes out hunting. After he returns, the father ascertains why Schatz has been "holding tight onto himself about something": Schatz believes that he is going to die because he has heard the doctor say he has a 102 degree temperature. Mistakenly, he has interpreted this temperature as being in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, and he tells his father,

"At school in France the boys told me you can't live with forty-four degrees. I've got a hundred and two."

Horrified, the father realizes that Schatz has lain there in his bed, waiting to die. With a shattering significance to his day's wait, the boy suffers the next day from the backlash of his Spartan control, "crying easily at little things that were of no importance."

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A Day's Wait

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