In “The Three-Day Blow,” Nick, the protagonist, is drinking with his friend Bill at Bill father’s cabin. Their drunken conversation betrays little substance, as they rotate through superficial topics like baseball, alcohol, and the weather. However, Nick’s feeling of powerlessness in the face of adulthood are evident beneath the surface of the trivial matters they are discussing. He thinks despondently about his recently ended relationship, implicitly comparing it to the brutal nature of the storm outside, but he is pacified by the thought that although the chaotic nature of life brings about abrupt endings, it carries with it the possibility that anything can happen. This idea is echoed throughout the story with descriptions of the cyclical nature of existence, like the “second-growth” logs piled in front of the trees outside the cabin. Thus, the narrative asserts that feelings of futility in the face of loss still give cause for optimism, because no ending is absolute: another storm could blow through and shake everything up again.
Nick despairs about his breakup with Marjorie when comparing its finality to the brutality of the storm. His feelings of futility in the face of his recent breakup are captured in his comparison of the “sudden” nature of the relationship’s end and the devastation of storms like the “three-day blow.” Nick says, “All of a sudden everything was over,” before continuing, “Just like when the three-day blows come now and rip all the leaves off the trees.” This comparison shows that Nick feels as powerless about the breakup as he does the storm, despite having chosen to end the relationship. Nick’s shock at his relationship with Marjorie being over is captured in the word “gone,” which he repeats throughout his internal monologue. The repetition conveys Nick’s shock at the finality of his breakup with Marjorie much in the way that tree branches can be full of leaves until a storm blows through: the leaves are suddenly ripped off and cannot be put back in place.
Despite Nick’s feelings of loss and hopelessness, Bill inadvertently prompts him to realize that this ending has triggered the possibility of a new beginning. When Bill warns Nick to avoid slipping back into the relationship, Nick is suddenly comforted by the realization that no ending is final. Nick’s realization is captured in his reflection that “Nothing was finished. Nothing was ever lost.” The realization is paired with an explicit shift in mood from despair to optimism in Nick’s internal monologue. Rather than viewing the breakup as a tragedy, Nick’s shift in perspective suggests that an individual’s view of their circumstances comes down to choice, and that even situations that seem “lost” can be reframed as a new beginning. Hemingway narrates, “He felt happy now. There was not anything that was irrevocable.” This idea is visually reflected in the “second-growth” logs piled in front of the trees outside the cabin. These logs, which signify regrowth after a timber harvest, represent Nick’s newfound hope in starting again and having another chance with Marjorie. This is also reflected in the way that Nick and Bill depict the fall storms in a positive light. Nick says, “It's good when the fall storms come, isn't it?” This subtly questions the finality that Nick later associates with the storm. Storms, like seasons, come and go, and things continue to exist and grow despite the initial destructive changes that the storms bring about. By the end of the story, the power of the storm is reframed as a positive, rather than destructive thing: Nick is relieved that the wind has metaphorically blown his worries about Marjorie out of his head. This symbolizes Nick’s shift in mood from despair and worry to hope and peace of mind. Hemingway draws a comparison between the “three-day blow” of the storm and Nick’s feelings of loss and desolation in order to convey the sense of destruction and powerlessness that can occur in the midst of a breakup. But by extending this association to encompass the regrowth that a storm often facilitates, the story posits that there is always a choice to reframe loss as something positive, as it ultimately opens up new opportunities for an individual.
Loss and Hope ThemeTracker
Loss and Hope Quotes in The Three Day Blow
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.
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.
“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.
“It's good when the fall storms come, isn't it?” Nick said.
“It's the best time of year,” Nick said.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.