A Day’s Wait

A Day’s Wait Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ernest Hemingway's A Day’s Wait. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway grew up in a suburb of Chicago, spending summers with his family in rural Michigan. After high school, he got a job writing for The Kansas City Star, but left after only six months to join the Red Cross Ambulance Corps during World War I, where he was injured and awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor. Afterward, he lived in Ontario and Chicago, where he met his first wife, Hadley Richardson. In 1921 they moved to Paris, where he worked on his writing and also developed a long friendship with F. Scott Fitzgerald and other ex-patriate American writers of the Lost Generation. After the 1926 publication of his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway divorced Hadley and married Arkansas native Pauline Pfeiffer. The couple moved to Florida, where Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms (1929), which became a bestseller. Hemingway then moved to Spain to serve as a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War, a job that inspired his famous 1939 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. After its publication, Hemingway met his third wife, Martha Gellhorn. Hemingway married his fourth and final wife, Mary Hemingway, in 1946, and the couple spent the next fourteen years living in Cuba. In 1953, Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his novel The Old Man and the Sea, and in 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. After a final move to Idaho, Hemingway took his own life in 1961, following in the footsteps of his father who had died by suicide in 1928.
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Historical Context of A Day’s Wait

The Great Depression, which began in 1929, devastated economies worldwide. In the United States, thousands of banks failed, and hundreds of thousands of families became homeless in a worsening spiral that lasted until the election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 opened a period of recovery. National unemployment peaked at 25 percent in 1933, the year “A Day’s Wait” was published. In Germany, unemployment reached nearly 30 percent in 1932, and the country’s acute crisis opened the way for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party to rise to power.

Other Books Related to A Day’s Wait

Many of Hemingway’s works examine father-son relationships, including the essential Hemingway short story “Indian Camp,” along with numerous other stories featuring his recurring protagonist Nick Adams. Some scholars have speculated that Nick, a child and young man in Hemingway’s earlier story collections, is now the adult father of Schatz in “A Day’s Wait.” The book that the father reads to his son in the story, Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates, is a real collection of pirate stories and illustrations by Howard Pyle, published in 1921. Pyle wrote and illustrated a number of books for children, most famously The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883). Hemingway’s interest in writing about death and the failure of conventional values like masculine heroism was shared with other members of the Lost Generation, a group of writers who came of age during World War I and were deeply affected by their exposure to the horrors of warfare. After World War I, many such American and British writers formed an expatriate community in Paris and created lasting intellectual and personal bonds. Other notable writers who belonged to the Lost Generation include F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and the Damned) and James Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses).
Key Facts about A Day’s Wait
  • Full Title: “A Day’s Wait”
  • When Written: March-July 1933
  • Where Written: Florida and Wyoming
  • When Published: October 1933
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Short story
  • Setting: An American family home
  • Climax: The young boy asks his father when he’s going to die.
  • Antagonist: Miscommunication
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for A Day’s Wait

Father and Sons. Hemingway’s three children, all boys, were born between 1923 and 1931. In the winter of 1932, the oldest boy, nine-year-old John, came down with influenza. The episode likely inspired this story, which his father wrote a few months later.

The Nick Adams Canon. Most scholars believe that the unnamed narrator in “A Day’s Wait” is in fact Hemingway’s returning character Nick Adams. In another story featuring Nick and his son, the boy is also called “Schatz.” Hemingway used the same term of endearment for his own sons.