A Day’s Wait

by

Ernest Hemingway

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Temperature Symbol Icon

In “A Day’s Wait,” the boy’s confusion over a principle as seemingly straightforward as temperature represents the endless possibilities of individual interpretation, and how that paves the way for profound miscommunication. When the boy falls ill and his father calls for the doctor, what should be a plain and objective scientific fact instead becomes a matter of perfect ambiguity. The boy’s confusion of a measurement given in Fahrenheit for the same number in Celsius exemplifies just how differently someone can understand the same reality, and underscores the need for clear and open communication—he thinks he’s dying with a 102-degree fever because his classmates in France told him that a 44-degree fever is fatal. As this scenario illustrates, even basic facts people assume to be in absolute agreement about can carry vastly different meanings in different contexts. Reaching a common understanding requires dialogue and transparency, not silence and pretense.

Temperature Quotes in A Day’s Wait

The A Day’s Wait quotes below all refer to the symbol of Temperature. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Silence and Miscommunication Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of A Day’s Wait published in 1987.
“A Day’s Wait” Quotes

But when I came downstairs he was dressed, sitting by the fire, looking a very sick and miserable boy of nine years. When I put my hand on his forehead I knew he had a fever.

“You go up to bed,” I said, “You’re sick.”

“I’m all right,” he said.

Related Characters: The Father (speaker), Schatz (The Son) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Temperature
Page Number: 332
Explanation and Analysis:

“Your temperature is all right,” I said. “It’s nothing to worry about.”

“I don’t worry,” he said, “but I can’t keep from thinking.”

“Don’t think,” I said. “Just take it easy.”

“I’m taking it easy,” he said and looked straight ahead. He was evidently holding tight onto himself about something.

Related Characters: The Father (speaker), Schatz (The Son) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Temperature
Page Number: 334
Explanation and Analysis:

“People don’t die with a fever of one hundred and two. That’s a silly way to talk.”

“I know they do. At school in France the boys told me you can’t live with forty-four degrees. I’ve got a hundred and two.”

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

“Poor old Schatz. It’s like miles and kilometers. You aren’t going to die. That’s a different thermometer. On that thermometer thirty-seven is normal. On this kind it’s ninety-eight.”

Related Characters: The Father (speaker), Schatz (The Son) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Temperature
Page Number: 334
Explanation and Analysis:
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A Day’s Wait PDF

Temperature Symbol Timeline in A Day’s Wait

The timeline below shows where the symbol Temperature appears in A Day’s Wait. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
“A Day’s Wait”
Silence and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Masculinity and Heroism Theme Icon
Maturity and Innocence Theme Icon
The doctor comes to examine the boy. He takes the boy’s temperature and says that he has a fever of 102 degrees. Downstairs, the doctor leaves medicine... (full context)
Silence and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Masculinity and Heroism Theme Icon
Maturity and Innocence Theme Icon
...as he had left him: pale, feverish, and stubbornly awake. The father takes his son’s temperature again, and the boy asks what it says. It’s 102.4, but the father says it’s... (full context)
Silence and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Masculinity and Heroism Theme Icon
...he isn’t going to die. The boy replies that he heard the doctor say his temperature was 102 degrees. His father assures him that people don’t die of 102-degree fevers, but... (full context)
Silence and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Masculinity and Heroism Theme Icon
Maturity and Innocence Theme Icon
...explains to the boy—“poor old Schatz”—that the two countries use different thermometers and measurements of temperature, just like they use different measurements of distance—miles versus kilometers. He explains, “On that thermometer... (full context)