In order to understand the message, sent to us, the readers, in the short stories of Ernest Hemingway one needs at least to a certain point know and understand his life path, in other words – his biography. Ernest was born in Illinois, in a family of middle class parents, and his childhood, despite the strictness of his parents, can be called happy (Benson, 365). In his teen years, Ernest discovered his talent and passion to literature, and started his literary career by writing short stories for the school magazine. Hemingway graduated in 1917 and took a position of a reporter at “Kansas City Star” (Meyers). He was covering various events, having to deal with hospitals and police.
During the First World War, Ernest was working as the Red Cross driver in Italy, and this experience heavily influenced his further literary focus. During that period of time he got wounded in both legs and returned to the United States. He had to return to his journalistic activities, since he needed to earn money for living. At that time he was working for “Toronto Star”. Soon he gets married and returns to Europe to start his literary work.
In the end of his life, Hemingway experienced severe mental disorders, had severe depression and despite the treatment he received, he committed a suicide.
Plot of the story
The story chosen for analysis is “a Day’s Wait” by Ernest Hemingway. The story was published in 1933 in the book “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”. The story tells the reader about a boy of about nine years old and his father, who lived, or rather to say, survived through a very difficult day. Both the child and his father are waiting; however, they are waiting for quite different things.
The boy catches flu, and the doctor is being sent for. The doctor comes and prescribes three different medicines, checks the boy’s temperature and says that it is 102 degrees Fahrenheit. The boy occasionally hears those words and subconsciously prepares himself to die. He is aware of only one temperature measuring system, that being Celsius. And 102 degrees Celsius is an unbelievable high temperature. He heard once, that people do not live with the temperature of 42, now he has got 60 degrees more. This means, reflects the boy, that he is still alive due to some unknown mistake of nature, and he expects his death to come any moment. The situation is getting more and more complex. The more the boy waits for his death to come, the more severe his state becomes. He has no appetite, he does not listen to the stories told and read by his father, he is only looking at the foot of his bed, expecting his death to appear. However, the boy does not want to upset his father with the worries, which his heart is full of. He wants to cause as little trouble as possible, therefore he tries his best not to let his father know, what his concerns are all about. However, the horror would not let him concentrate on anything and in the final score the boy makes up his mind to ask his father: “How long will it be before I die?” The father did not understand the question at first, and then, after the boy explains his concern to the father, the latter takes a sigh of relief. He explains the misunderstanding to the boy. Since everything was over, the state of the boy changed drastically: “But his gaze at the foot of the bed relaxed slowly. The hold over him relaxed too, finally, and the next day it was very slack and he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance.” (Hemingway).
The author pays special attention to describing the state of tension, in which both the boy and his father find themselves. The boy’s awful state is described by the words “He had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine o’clock in the morningâ€.
The story and the reality
Thinking about possible parallels between the story and the reality we may run into a somewhat similar situation in the author’s life. When the author was wounded twice he woke up in the hospital and heard the doctor speak of his health. He did not quite understand what it was all about, but decided, that it really meant, that the end, his death. He puts his own feelings into the character of the boy – the boy does know very well, that people do not live with the temperature much higher, then 40 degrees, but the idea does not cross his mind, that there might be various ways of measuring body temperature.
The boy shows an outstanding example of heroism: he knows, or, rather to say, strongly believes, that he is going to pass away very shortly. He is afraid of his death and he is afraid of missing the moment it comes. He is afraid of something; he is not aware of what exactly it is, something new and eternal. And there is his father, who is there to share his concerns, ready to help and willing to help. Meanwhile, the boy understands how serous his concern is and does not want to share it even with his father. He realizes, that it would be the last thing he would ask for from his father, yet, he does not want to upset him, and therefore keeps the whole concern within his soul. He is not pitiful of his own self; he just does not want to upset others around him with his horrible discovery. They have enough of their own concerns.
- Benson, Jackson (1989). “Ernest Hemingway: The Life as Fiction and the Fiction as Life”. American Literature. Volume 61, issue 3. 354â€“358.
- Meyers, Jeffrey (1985). Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Macmillan.Â