The Three Day Blow

Bill is Nick’s close friend. Like Nick, Bill is passionate about literature, fishing, and drinking—all activities that Bill thinks “real” men enjoy. Like Nick, he is eager to show off how much he knows about these topics, and that he can handle his liquor. Bill is the dominant character in the dialogue, as he bosses Nick around and drives the conversation as the pair drinks whisky. Bill’s father is a painter who’s also fond of drinking. Nick’s father, on the other hand, is a doctor who doesn’t drink. Both agree that Nick’s father missed out on a lot in life, though Bill darkly notes that his father can be “wild.” This provides insight into the kinds of male role models both young men have in their lives: the temperamental artist and the sensible doctor. The character’s fathers seem to represent the two types of lives the boys are weighing up when Bill brings up the topic of Nick’s recent breakup with Marjorie. Bill feels strongly that relationships with women are trouble. He thinks that marriage makes men weak and unmanly, and that it pushes them into dull lives focused on the daily grind of work, saving money, and entertaining extended family. Instead, he thinks men should be free and independent to drink, read, write, and fish. Bill expresses his views to Nick, saying it was a good thing that Nick broke up with Marjorie, or Nick would have ended up like that, too. Bill is oblivious to the fact that Nick is secretly heartbroken but is clearly uncomfortable expressing his true feelings to Bill, no doubt because he doesn’t want to seem emotionally vulnerable, and therefore unmanly. Hemingway uses the contrast between Nick’s internal distress and dismissive outward demeanor to reflect the way young men in this time feel pressured to repress their emotions and embrace a stoic, masculine demeanor. After warning Nick not to get mixed up with Marjorie again, Bill feels satisfied that he has given Nick solid advice, even though internally Nick is planning to do the exact opposite and try and get Marjorie back.

Bill Quotes in The Three Day Blow

The The Three Day Blow quotes below are all either spoken by Bill or refer to Bill. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon and Schuster edition of The Three Day Blow published in 1987.
The Three-Day Blow Quotes

In back was the garage, the chicken coop and the second-growth timber like a hedge against the woods behind. The big trees swayed far over in the wind is he watched. It was the first of the autumn storms.

Related Characters: Nick, Bill
Related Symbols: The Storm
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
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The wind was blowing straight down the lake. They could see the surf along Ten Mile point.

“She's blowing,” Nick said.

“She'll blow like that for three days,” Bill said.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Storm
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“It's got a swell, smoky taste,” Nick said, and looked at the fire through the glass.

“That's the peat,” Bill said.

“You can't get peat into liquor,” Nick said.

“That doesn't make any difference.” Bill said.

“You ever seen any peat?” Nick asked.

“No,” said Bill.

“Neither have I,” Nick said.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker)
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bill came down with a pair of heavy wool socks.

“It's getting too late to go around without socks,” he said.

“I hate to start them again,” Nick said. He pulled the socks on and slumped back in the chair, putting his feet up on the screen in front of the fire.

“You'll dent in the screen,” Bill said. Nick swung his feet over to the side of the fireplace.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker)
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“As long as McGraw can buy every good ball player in the league there's nothing to it.”

“He can't buy them all,” Nick said.

“He buys all the ones he wants,” Bill said. “Or he makes them discontented so they have to trade them to him.”

“Like Heinie Zim,” Nick agreed.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker)
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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“It's good when the fall storms come, isn't it?” Nick said.

“It's swell.”

“It's the best time of year,” Nick said.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Storm
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Did you read the Forest Lovers?”

“Yup. That's the one where they go to bed every night with the naked sword between them […] What I couldn't ever understand was what good the sword would do […]”

“It's a symbol,” Bill said.

“Sure,” said Nick, “but it isn't practical.”

“Did you ever read Fortitude?”

“It's fine,” Nick said […] “Have you got any more by Walpole?”
The Dark Forest,” Bill said.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker)
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“I guess he's a better guy than Walpole.”

“Oh, he's a better guy, all right.” Bill said.

“But Walpole's a better writer.”

“I don't know,” Nick said. “Chesterton’s a classic.”

“Walpole's a classic, too,” Bill insisted.

“I wish we had them both here,” Nick said. “We'd take them both fishing to the 'Voix tomorrow.”

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker)
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“He claims he's never taken a drink in his life,” Nick said […].

“Well, he's a doctor. My old man's a painter. That's different.”

“He's missed a lot,” Nick said sadly.

“You can't tell,” Bill said. “Everything's got its compensations.”

“He says he's missed a lot himself,” Nick confessed.

“Well, dad’s had a tough time.” Bill said.

“It all evens up,” Nick said.

They sat looking into the fire and thinking of this profound truth.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker), Bill’s Father, Nick’s Father
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Nick […] wished to show he could hold his liquor and be practical. Even if his father had never touched a drop Bill was not going to get him drunk before he himself was drunk.

“Bring one of the big beech chunks,” Bill said. He was also being consciously practical.

Related Characters: Bill (speaker), Nick
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“You were very wise, Wemedge,” Bill said.

“What do you mean?” asked Nick.

“To bust off that Marge business,” Bill said.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill (speaker), Marjorie (“Marge”)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Once a man’s married he’s absolutely bitched […] He hasn't got anything more. Nothing. Not a damn thing. He’s done for. You’ve seen the guys that get married. […] They get this sort of fat married look. They're done for.”

Related Characters: Bill (speaker), Nick, Marjorie (“Marge”)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“If you’d have married her you would have had to marry the whole family. Remember her mother and that guy she married […] Imagine having them around the house all the time and going to Sunday dinners at their house, and having them over to dinner and her telling Marge all the time what to do and how to act.”

Related Characters: Bill (speaker), Nick, Marjorie (“Marge”)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“You can't mix oil and water and you can't mix that sort of thing any more than if I'd marry Ida that works for Strattons. She'd probably like it, too.”

Related Characters: Bill (speaker), Nick, Marjorie (“Marge”), Ida
Page Number: 90-91
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Nick said nothing. The liquor had all died out of him and left him alone. Bill wasn't there. He wasn't sitting in front of the fire or going fishing tomorrow with Bill and his dad or anything. He wasn't drunk. It was all gone. All he knew was that he had once had Marjorie and that he had lost her. She was gone and he had sent her away. That was all that mattered. He might never see her again. Probably he never would. It was all gone, finished.

Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“All of a sudden everything was over […] I don't know why it was. I couldn't help it. Just like when the three-day blows come now and rip all the leaves off the trees.”

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill, Marjorie (“Marge”)
Related Symbols: The Storm
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“I'm sorry as hell about her but what could I do? […] You know what her mother was like!”

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill, Marjorie (“Marge”)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Nick had not thought about that. It had seemed so absolute. That was a thought. That made him feel better […] He felt happy now. There was not anything that was irrevocable.

Related Characters: Nick, Bill, Marjorie (“Marge”)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“There's always a chance.”

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Bill, Marjorie (“Marge”)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Outside now the Marge business was no longer so tragic. It was not even very important. The wind blew everything like that away. […] None of it was important now. The wind blew it out of his head.

Related Characters: Nick, Bill, Marjorie (“Marge”)
Related Symbols: The Storm
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Bill Character Timeline in The Three Day Blow

The timeline below shows where the character Bill appears in The Three Day Blow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Three-Day Blow
Loss and Hope Theme Icon
...piled up against the trees that are swaying in the wind of the approaching storm. Bill exits the cottage, and he and Nick greet each other. Watching the waves on Ten... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Bill fetches some Irish whisky and water from the kitchen and the pair sit down by... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Bill notices that Nick’s feet are wet when Nick’s shoes start steaming in front of the... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Loss and Hope Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
...thinks it was a good idea, saying that Zim can hit and field well, but Bill is more skeptical, noting that he loses games. (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Loss and Hope Theme Icon
Bill reaches his hand around the whisky bottle and refills Nick’s glass. Nick muses that it’s... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Bill reaches for a book and leans back, book in one hand, whisky glass in the... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Nick says he’d like to meet Walpole, and Bill counters that he’d like to meet Chesterton. Nick fantasizes about taking Chesterton fishing, and Bill... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Bill abruptly says, “let’s get drunk,” and Nick cautiously agrees, wondering if Bill’s father will mind.... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Bill mentions that his father “gets a little wild sometimes,” and Nick remarks that Bill’s father... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...eager to prove that he can handle his liquor by performing “practical” tasks while drunk. Bill, who is “also being consciously practical,” weighs in on which log Nick should bring. On... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Nick suggests drinking more, and Bill fishes out another open bottle. This time it’s Scotch. Nick gets up to fetch more... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
...decide to now drink to Chesterton and Walpole. As they refill their glasses, Nick and Bill “[feel] very fine.” (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Bill switches topics abruptly, saying that Nick was “wise” to break off his relationship, dismissively calling... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Bill sympathizes that it must have been tough to break off the relationship, but reminds Nick... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Loss and Hope Theme Icon
...thinks to himself with despair, “it was all gone.” He says nothing about this to Bill, suggesting instead that they have another drink. (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Loss and Hope Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Bill remarks that if Nick had stayed with Marjorie, they wouldn’t be hanging out right now.... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
...to do with Marjorie, like travel to Italy, and internally he is riddled with grief. Bill admits that he was worried Nick would get sucked in, and he’s glad that Nick... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
...that he had no choice, adding with frustration, “you know what her mother was like!” Bill agrees that her mother was “terrible.” Nick is still shocked about how suddenly it ended,... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Loss and Hope Theme Icon
...go into town in the next few days, but he says nothing of this to Bill. Out loud, he says “there’s always a chance.” Bill warns Nick to watch himself, and... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Loss and Hope Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Nick suggests they take the guns outside for some shooting and to find Bill’s father. As he puts his shoes and Mackinaw coat back on, Nick notices that he... (full context)
Masculinity, Independence, and Vulnerability Theme Icon
Loss and Hope Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
The boys hear a shotgun go off in the wind, and Bill says that must be his dad. It sounds like it’s coming from the swamp, so... (full context)