A Day's Wait

Hemingway, Ernest

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Oct-19-2004
  • Last revised: Aug-16-2006


Schatz, a 9-year-old American boy who lived in France, develops a fever of 102 degrees. A doctor diagnoses the flu and prescribes some medication. Over the next day or so, the boy’s father is surprised at how depressed and fatalistic his son is. At one point the boy asks, "About how long will it be fore I die?" The father is flabbergasted and assures the boy that he isn’t seriously ill. However, it turns out that Schatz had heard his school friends say that you couldn’t survive a fever of 44 degrees. Obviously, he was bound to die from 102. His relieved father explains to Schatz the misunderstanding--the French use Centigrade while Americans use Fahrenheit. The boy relaxes. He is not going to die.


This is a good story to illustrate the suffering that results from misunderstandings that occur every day in medicine. Patients and health care professionals represent different cultures, and they speak different languages. Nowadays, laypersons often believe they can interpret "medicalese," which takes the pressure off physicians, who find it difficult to remember how to use ordinary language. This can lead to a situation like that of Schatz. Patient and physician look at the same situation, but draw very different implications from it.

Primary Source

The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway


Charles Scribner's Sons

Place Published

New York


1987 (Finca Vigía Edition)

Page Count