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The Three Day Blow

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The short story “The Three Day Blow” is a lengthy conversation between Nick Adams and his friend Bill, who comes and is jovial at the fact that Nick had just broken up with his girlfriend Marge. They spend their time drinking, and a conversation entails. Nick, understandably, is distraught and saddened by the fact that he has just broken up with Marge, and seeks Bill’s assurance that he in fact, has done the right thing. Bill does not disappoint, but assures and reassures Nick that breaking up with Marge was the best and necessary thing to do.

Here a notable quote that Bill uses as one of his main reasons arguing for this, “if you hadn’t, by now you’d be back home working trying to get enough money to get married…once a man’s married, he’s absolutely bitched, he hasn’t got anything more. Nothing.” (Hemingway 46) However, this just Bill’s negative influence on Nick in two ways: (1) causing Nick to end his relationship with Marge because of selfish reasons, and (2) assuring Nick’s actions just to benefit himself and his personal agenda.

In the prequel to this story, “The End of Something”, we are introduced to Bill, as Nick, who wants to be alone after Marge had left the beach, sends him off. We find out that breaking up with Marge was a premeditated move that was conspired between Bill and Nick. After Marge leaves, we find out that Bill was there the whole time, and appears out of the woods, and asks, “did she go all alright?” (Hemingway 35) Nick makes the mistake of caving into Bill’s consistent and seemingly valid reasons to break up with Marge. Later on, during the conversation, Bill seemingly praises Nick for his decision to break up with Marge, “you were very wise, Wemedge…to bust off that Marge business.” (Hemingway 46) Nick is shaken and obviously heartbroken by his decision, but Bill is there to “encourage” his friend that his choice was the right one in the long term.

You can assume correctly that Nick uses whiskey as a mean of numbing the pain that he feels, “warming up” his heart that has been chilled by the decision he has made. “…Nick will warm his chilled heart at Bill’s blazing hearth; and his chilled heart with Bill’s whiskey and bachelor philosophy” (Johnston 95) The two men talk about different topics, carefully avoiding the “800-lb gorilla in the room”. They talk about baseball, literature, and family. However, one of the books that they speak about speak volumes of the situation that just occured. The Forest Lovers, a novel by Maurice Hewlett, is about a knight in shining armor who saves a young girl from hanging by marrying her, but really doesn’t fall in love with her. The defining image is that of the two couple lying in bed, the knight on one side, the maiden on the other, and the knight’s unsheathed sword in between them.

Looking at it symbolically, Nick represents, or represented, past tense, the knight, Marge represented the maiden, and Bill? He represents the sword, the divider, and the one who stood, or in this case, laid in between the couple. The fact that the sword was unsheathed is a significant thing, because an unsheathed sword is prepared to strike at any moment. Bill struck the couple when he convinces Nick that breaking up with Marge is the right thing to do.

Finally Bill is the first to address the situation that has occurred not so long ago. Busting off that Marge business, as he puts it, was the logical and only thing that Nick could’ve done. “But, at first, Nick is not so sure, and he responds with a single word, or reluctant nod, or silence to Bill’s earnest indictment of marriage.” (Johnston 96) Bill’s views of marriage and his reasoning at first weren’t very convincing



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