Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In a story such as “The Three-Day Blow,” the reader must be warned against too easily accepting what happens literally in the tale, which hardly seems to constitute a story at all. What holds this story together is not its developing action but its haunting vision of a world in which human ideals and aspirations are too often thwarted by cupidity or incompetence or by the destructive forces of nature. Love ends just as suddenly and without warning as “when the three-day blows come now and rip all the leaves off the trees.” When Bill says, “That’s the way it works out,” he refers specifically to the end of young love. However, he also voices the growing awareness of the young men that the world is unceasingly hostile and unsympathetic, that nothing of value lasts very long, and that only the tough-skinned survive.

As with life itself, love is subject to the cruel flux and dissolution of nature. It, too, has its seasons, like baseball or hunting, youth or old age. The fire that blazes up and dies down, the “second growth timber,” even the autumn storm itself, reminds one that cyclical change is the great law of life. “All of a sudden,” Nick says, “everything was over. I don’t know why it was. I couldn’t help it.” At first Nick condemns himself, but then he consoles himself with the thought that everything in life dissolves into nothingness and that no one is to blame.

Marrying and settling down represent the stifling of soul, the death of male independence that every Ernest Hemingway hero abhors. This is evidently what Bill has in mind when he tells Nick, “If...

(The entire section is 659 words.)