“A day’s wait” by Ernest Hemingway

“A day’s wait is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway in 1933. The story focuses on the boy and his father who calls him Schatz (German, meaning darling). When the boy gets the flu, a doctor is called in and recommends three different medicines and tells the boy’s father that his temperature is 102 degrees Fahrenheit. He is very quiet and depressed, finally asking when he will die; he had thought that a 102-degree temperature was lethal because he heard in France (where Celsius is used) that one cannot live with a temperature over 44 degrees. When the father explains to him the difference in scales, the boy finally relaxes.

Ernest Hemingway leaves a very personal trail over his work, and he is known for his writing style. This is easily spotted in A day’s wait where he reveals the narrator through dialogue.

Quote from line 41-42: After a while, he said to me, “You don’t have to stay in here with me, Papa, if it bothers you.”

This tells us that the dad of the boy is the narrator, as well as the lead character in the story. Ernest avoids the adjective whenever possible.  In Observations on the Style of Ernest Hemingway, from “Contexts of Criticism” by Harry Levin (Harvard University Press, 1957), the critic says: “Hemingway puts his emphasis on nouns because, among other parts of speech, they come closest to things. Stringing them along by means of conjunctions, he approximates the actual flow of experience.”

Hemingway has often been described as a master of dialog, and most readers agree, upon being first introduced to his writing, that “this is the way these characters would really talk.” It is interesting to note, however, that Hemingway’s one attempt at playwriting was a failure. Actually, a close examination of his dialog will reveal that this is rarely the way people really speak. The effect is accomplished, rather, by the calculated emphasis and repetition which makes us remember what has been said.Ernest Hemingway

This is what he says about his work process:
I do most of my work in my head. I never begin to write until my ideas are in order. Frequently I recite passages of dialogue as it is being written; the ear is a good sensor. I never set down a sentence on paper until I have it so expressed that it will be clear to anyone. 


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