The Three Day Blow Summary

Summary and Analysis of The Three-Day Blow by Ernest Hemingway

The Three-Day Blow by Ernest Hemingway is a brilliantly insightful short story written in 1925 in the aftermath of the First World War. The short story is an intimate account that focuses on the conflicts that confront and challenge the young protagonist, Nick Adams, during the rapidly changing times of the war. 

The Three-Day Blow was first published in his collection of short stories called “In Our Time”.

The Three-Day Blow | Summary

The short story is about Nick and Bill and their conversations over several bottles of Whiskey and Scotch. The story begins as Nick treads his way through the orchard onto the top of the hill. On his way, he picks up a Wagner Apple and marches towards the cottage of his friend, Bill. As he approaches the house, Nick meets Bill at the door. As they stand together, looking across the country, they discuss the first autumn storms that will continue to blow for three days. Nick enters the cottage and inquires about Bill’s dad, to which Bill responds that he has gone out into the woods with his gun and so they decide to have a drink. 

As they sip down the Irish whiskey, they begin to discuss several topics. They start off by conversing about baseball and move on to talk about the best time of the year: the fall storms. The story proceeds to focus on their next conversation which is about the books both of them are reading. Their discussion about the books varies from Richard Feveral to Fortitude and finally to the books of G.K Chesterton and Hugh Walpole. Bill, on one hand, prefers the former, and Nick, on the other hand, favors the latter as his writings are more practical. But both of them express their wish to take Chesterton and Walpole out fishing someday. Their conversation moves onto their fathers and their different occupations but also onto their drinking habits. Bill’s father is a painter who drinks regularly, whereas Nick’s father is a doctor who has never touched alcohol. In between their discussions, Nick notices that the fire is dying and he gets up to collect the logs. Nick is proud of himself to have observed this and he thinks to himself that he is capable of being practical even while holding his liquor. 

           The boys gulp down more alcohol, this time Scotch, and drink it to fishing, which they decide is better than baseball. After several drinks, Bill finally talks about Marjorie, Nick’s ex-girlfriend. Bill points out that it was a very wise decision taken by Nick, but he himself is not sure of this sudden decision. Bill goes on to say that he is very glad that Nick broke off this relationship that was soon to become a marriage because apparently after a man is married, according to Bill, “He’s done for”. Yet, for Nick, this conversation only pushes him to feel more alienated and at loss, because for him, it seemed like everything was over in a sudden manner. As the alcohol starts drying up in his body, Nick starts reminiscing about the promises Marjorie and he made to each other and as the feeling of loneliness creeps in, Nick gulps down more of the Scotch and tells Bills that they should go swimming. 

           But before they go down, Bill tells Nick that there is always a chance to get back into that relationship and that sense of hope comforts Nick. Relieved, soon they decide to take the guns and look for Bill’s dad and Nick thinks to himself that nothing was important now as the wind blew away every thought from his head. But still, Nick wonders that nothing was over because he could always go to town and find Marjorie again. 

The Three-Day Blow | Analysis

Hemingway approaches side by side the themes of conflict that confronts Nick as a young man in The Three-Day Blow with the rapid changes each individual in the world was being challenged following World War I. The short story moreover juxtaposes the severe threat of change received by the countryside as the world was gradually transforming towards an age of modernity to that of a desire for the writer to preserve rusticity within his narration of the short story. 

Firstly and more importantly, Hemingway looks at the theme of the dilemma that challenges Nick to choose between his male friendship and a female relationship. In other words, a choice between Bill and Marjorie. But as we observed in the short story, Nick had already broken off the relationship with Marge. Therefore, the dilemma of Nick can be formulated to the question: if, after all, busting off with Marjorie was a wise decision or not? Herein, Hemingway shrewdly juxtaposes the conversations of drinking with that of the autumn storm, both suggestive of washing off or blowing off the agitated and sorrowful thoughts that encompass Nick. Moreover, they also evoke a sense of hope that arrives after the harsh storm that will remain only for a momentary time. 

           Following several conversations in between their drinks, Bill brings forth the topic of Marjorie. Until then, Nick had suppressed this topic within his alcohol but now it is brought to the surface by Bill. From a point of view of Bill, breaking off of a relationship that would lead to the road of marriage seemed to be a wise decision. But for Nick, such a decision meant “All of a sudden everything was over” and expresses a feeling of loss similar to that of the three-day blows that come now and “rip all the leaves off the trees”. Such an analogy suggests the bare life of Nick that came after he blew off his relationship with Marjorie. Even more, the narration evokes emotions about the bare and shallow life of the protagonist as it gives insight into the feeling of separation, loneliness, and grief that surrounds Nick when the sensation of drunkenness fades away. In such a state, the only thought that encircles Nick becomes, “It was all gone. All he knew was that he had once had Marjorie and that he had lost her…. That was all that mattered”. In his sober state, even “Bill wasn’t there”, a suggestion of an empty life that embodies Nick even in the presence of Bill next to him. 

           Moreover, the only comfort that brings within Nick manifests in the glimmering chance of hope, a chance for Nick to reconcile his relationship with Marjorie. Even though, the dilemma that confronted Nick that has given him hope now doesn’t get resolved because the short story doesn’t give any assurance as to whether Nick will be able to find Marjorie and get back together. 

           Secondly, the short story embodies the desire for the writer to preserve the essence of the countryside in juxtaposition to a rapid transformation from rusticity to modernity that followed the world after the war. The natural world of the countryside is evoked many times within the setting of the narration. We see Nick and Bill looking over the countryside:

“…down over the orchard, beyond the road, across the lower fields and the woods of the point to the lake”. 

Such a landscape is colored even more through the use of imagery to describe the cottage house of Bill:

“In back was the garage, the chicken coop and the second-growth timber like a hedge against the woods behind”. 

           Not just the setting embodies a rusticity to the story, but the activities of fishing, swimming, and going down the wood with their guns, all of them which Nick and Bill decide to do, evokes a countryside tone to the short story. Furthermore, Hemingway more skillfully introduces a language into the short story that echoes a speech of the countryside. For instance, the repetition of words like “dope” and “swell” which can be called a spare language expresses a shade of the rustic world. Therefore, creating a memorable short story that represents the countryside which will be preserved and will remain immortal, in spite of even a harsh storm. 

           The Three-Day Blow — Themes

           One of the main themes discussed in The Three-Day Blow is alienation and loss. Such a theme is given more emphasis by contrasting it with the theme of male companionship. On one hand, the male bonding between Bill and Nick is manifested as a way to elevate it more against a female relationship. But at the same time, their male friendship gets subsumed as Nick feels more and more alienated from such a world of male bonding because for him as the world of alcoholism washes away his thoughts run through as such, “He wasn’t sitting in front of the fire or going fishing tomorrow with Bill and his dad or anything” and moreover he feels all alone even with the companionship of Bill. 

           Another theme that is demonstrated in this short story is the sense of hope that appears after a harsh storm. Nick realizes that the times after World War I, once described by W.B Yeats as “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”, have forced him to confront the rapidly changing times with a dilemma. But like the momentary times of war, the harsh storm will also pass off to give once more, a sense of hope. Such a sense of hope encompasses Nick as he realizes that, “he could always go into town Saturday night. It was a good thing to have in reverse”, with respect to having a chance to meet Marjorie. 

 The Three-Day Blow — Title of the Story

The title bestowed to the short story is significant and quite insightful as it reflects, symbolically, the dilemma and conflicts faced by Nick but that will pass off like any other harsh momentary storm. But the title might say a lot more than we think it says and as Nick says, “There’s always more to it than we know about”, this might be true of the title and the short story. 

The Three-Day Blow — Character Sketch

           Nick Adams is portrayed as a character who regards himself to be a practical man. He favors the books of Hugh Walpole because his writings are more practical. Moreover, such a characteristic portrayal of Nick is made more apparent as Hemingway narrates an incident that takes place at the time when Nick goes to collect some logs to ignite the fire and he accidentally knocks off a pan in the kitchen. The narration goes as such:

 “It had contained dried apricots, soaking in water. He carefully picked up all the apricots off the floor, some of them had gone under the stove, and put them back in the pan. He dipped some more water onto them from the pail by the table…. He had been thoroughly practical”. 

Probably, the only decision of Nick that does not suggest being practical, is busting off his relationship with Marjorie. 

           The Three-Day Blow — Literary Devices

 Hemingway brilliantly uses the rhetorical device of analogy to set side by side the three-day blow to symbolize the storm of decisions that challenges Nick. But at the same time, like any other storm, this one also evokes a gust of wind that will blow for a brief period of time. 

The short story also employs the device of juxtaposition to suggest the swift changes of a world followed by a gruesome war to that of the rapid transformation, the protagonist of the short story has to face. Moreover, country life of Nick is also juxtaposed with the modern world that embraces technology and industrialization. The rustic world of the short story is elevated through the use of imagery that uses rich and colorful descriptions to evoke the countryside. 

In addition to these literary devices, the short story also puts into use the technique of allusion to refer to the literary works of several authors like The Dark Forest, Fortitude, and Forest Lovers, a device used to enhance the conversation between Nick and Bill. 





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