Thursday, May 14, 2009

Drunk and Windy with Ernie

"The Three-Day Blow" by Ernest Hemmingway

Don't listen to Blue Oyster Cult, the reaper is the only thing to fear.

In literature, the medium of a short story is hard to compare to other arts. Would a television mini-series, a brief radio documentary (like an account on This American Life), or a blog post be comparable? I feel like that’s not the case.

With Ernest Hemingway’s barely eight-page story “The Three-Day Blow,” a full narrative springs from a seemingly innocuous drunken evening between two acquaintances. The episode consists of the pair mundanely imbibing and talking. No action climax occurs; however, one character internally wrestles with a recent break-up.

The title refers to an autumn wind striping previously lively trees of their leaves. Protagonist Nick discusses the relevance to his break-up:

“'All of a sudden everything was over,’ Nick said. ‘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.’”

Hemmingway’s point is that life – or elements of life -- can suddenly cease to exist. Nick internally whines about his seemingly hopeless situation. But Hemmingway won’t let it be that bleak. His simple approach toward the two intoxicated men allows for the other character, Bill, to provide Nick an epiphany, unbeknownst to his crack-brained mind.

Bill warns Nick that if he isn’t careful, his relationship could be rekindled. The warning is slightly a joke because these burly men in the vein of Hemmingway’s code hero aren’t outwardly discussing feelings. Bill simply means that Nick could get trapped by monogamy; this is exactly what Nick wants to hear.

“Nick had not thought about [them getting back together]. It seemed so absolute. That was a thought. That made him feel better.”

Using deception, Hemmingway makes the reader think the short story will end tragically. Nick and Bill grab rifles and run out into the wilderness at the pinnacle of their stupor. Nothing happens – or it’s not written anyway – but the author’s point does not relate specifically to the pair’s story. Instead, unlike other Hemmingway works I’ve read, it seems positive. Other than death, nothing in life is final. Even if Nick screwed up his relationship, it is never technically beyond repair until someone dies.

Although morbid, the theme is hopeful.
Short story: “The Standard of Living” by Dorothy Parker

1 comment:

The Lady Doth Protest said...

Well done, sir!

Also - the lady is back home.