The Three Day Blow

The Three Day Blow Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ernest Hemingway's The Three Day Blow. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was raised in a suburb of Chicago. In high school, he developed an affinity for writing and edited his school’s newspaper and yearbook. Upon graduation, he began his life as a journalist, taking a job as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. He enlisted in World War I and served as an ambulance driver on the Italian front, though he was discharged in 1918 after being seriously wounded. He published his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, in 1926, followed by seven more novels as well as short stories and non-fiction works. He is known for his distinctively lean, sparse prose, which had a profound influence on 20th-century fiction. He is also known for his adventurous life, in which he lived in Paris, New York, Cuba, Africa, Key West, and the Caribbean, and got married four times, all while writing fiction and reporting as a journalist on the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Many of his life experiences were captured in his novels. He was dubbed a member of the Lost Generation while living in Paris among expatriate artists and writers including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso. He died in 1961 in Key West by a self-inflicted gunshot. Hemingway’s novels are considered classics of American literature, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
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Historical Context of The Three Day Blow

In “The Three-Day Blow,” Nick and Bill discuss baseball facts from the early 1900s, including the trade of infielder Heinie Zimmerman (also known as “The Great Zim”) to the New York Giants in August of 1916 under the team’s manager John McGraw, who is also mentioned in the story. Nick and Bill’s conversation about Heinie Zimmerman place the story in or around 1916. During this period, baseball was fast becoming established as a popular sport in the social culture of the Northeast United States. The boys also mention wanting to attend the World Series, an annual championship series of Major League Baseball. The first World Series took place in October 1903, a little over a decade before “The Three-Day Blow” takes place. Nick and Bill also discuss a number of novels published between 1898 and 1916, including Hugh Walpole’s Fortitude and The Dark Forest, as well as G. K. Chesterton’s The Flying Inn. These historical details situate the story as a World War I narrative about young men in the United States, consequently reinforcing the association of its characters with the youths of the Lost Generation.

Other Books Related to The Three Day Blow

Writing between World War I and World War II, Hemingway was part of what is known as the Lost Generation. These writers are known as having become disillusioned with traditional American values (like work, savings, marriage, and domestic life) after experiencing war and feeling aimless, or “lost.” Their writing often featured themes relating to this worldview, such as loss, love, death, travel, angst, and decadence. Other examples of literature from the Lost Generation include Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926). “The Three-Day Blow” is one of several short stories featuring Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical alter ego, Nick Adams, that were published between 1925 and 1933, loosely based on Hemingway’s personal life experiences. “The Three-Day Blow” was originally published in In Our Time, Hemingway’s first collection of short stories. “The Three-Day Blow” follows on from another short story called “The End of Something,” which depicts Nick’s breakup with Marjorie (which he dwells on after the fact in “The Three-Day Blow”). Additional vignettes featuring the character of Nick were compiled and published posthumously in The Nick Adams Stories. “The Three-Day Blow” also bears some thematic resemblance to Hemingway’s “Indian Camp” (another story following Nick Adams), which defines masculinity narrowly in terms of a man’s ability to mask his emotions, which is similar to how Nick and Bill conceive of it in “The Three-Day Blow.”
Key Facts about The Three Day Blow
  • Full Title: The Three-Day Blow
  • When Written: Early 1920s
  • Where Written: Paris, France
  • When Published: 1925
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Short Story
  • Setting: A cabin in rural Michigan around 1916.
  • Climax: Nick and Bill, both drunk, head out of the cabin to go shooting. Nick is hopeful, having secretly resolved to seek a reconciliation Marjorie, but decides to put the issue out of his mind for now.
  • Antagonist: Bill
  • Point of View: Third-Person Omniscient

Extra Credit for The Three Day Blow

Lost Generation. Gertrude Stein first used the term “lost generation” when describing Hemingway and other writers (including F. Scott Fitzgerald) in her artistic circle in Paris in the 1920s.

Teenage Love. The character of Marjorie is based on Hemingway’s childhood friend Marjorie Bump, whom he had a relationship with during his teenage years.