In Our Time

In Our Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter IV


This short vignette is told in the first person. The narrator describes a hot day when he and his men built a perfect barricade across a bridge. He describes how the enemy soldiers tried to get over it but could not. Instead, they were shot from forty yards away. The flank collapses, though, and they are forced to fall back.

"The Three-Day Blow"

This story continues to follow the character of Nick. He walks through an orchard as it begins to rain. The rain stops as he picks an apple. A cottage sits at the top of the hill. As Nick moves toward it, Bill comes out through the door and stands on the porch. He greets Nick by calling him "Wemedge," and Nick greets him. They survey the landscape and discuss the storm briefly, and Nick asks if Bill's father is at home.

They move inside, where a great fire roars. Bill offers Nick a drink, and they sit in front of the fire drinking. They talk about the whiskey for a while and then about baseball. They continue to drink and start discussing the fall storms, revealing that they think of the fall storm period as the best time of the year. They talk about the Cardinals and baseball again. They then start talking about the books they are reading and also about some of the authors. Nick says he would like to take Chesterton fishing at the "Voix."

Bill says they should get drunk and Nick agrees, so they get more whisky. Nick asks about Bill's father, and Bill says he can get a little wild sometimes. They both agree that he is a great guy. Then Nick says his father is all right; he claims never to have taken a drink. Bill suggests that their fathers' differing occupations are the reason. Nick becomes sad as he tells Bill that his father has missed a lot in life. Bill says his own father has had a tough time, and Nick concludes by saying, "It all evens up." They sit and ponder what they have been talking about.

Nick offers to get more wood for the fire in an effort to show that he holds his liquor well. He vows to himself that he will not be drunk before Bill. On the way back to the fire through the kitchen, he knocks over a pan. After carefully cleaning up the mess, he feels proud of himself for his practical behavior.

On his return, both boys try to keep the conversation on a high plane even while they continue to drink. Nick gets water for the whisky and on the way back examines his face in a mirror. It does not seem to be his own. They drink to fishing and proclaim how much better fishing is than baseball. They then drink to the authors Chesterton and Walpole.

At this point, Bill tells Nick that he thinks him very wise for breaking up with Marjorie. He says that otherwise they would now be married. He adds that marriage essentially ends a man's life. It is all right to fall for someone if it does not ruin you. Nick forgets about the liquor while Bill talks, and his mind leaves the scene. He feels sad about losing Marjorie and blames himself. He fears that he may never see her again. The have another drink while Bill continues to congratulate Nick on getting rid of Marjorie, while Nick talks about how suddenly it ended. Bill then says he will not talk about it again and concedes the danger of Nick starting it up again with Marjorie. This makes Nick feel much better, since before he had thought of the breakup as absolute and final. Suddenly he feels happy, and he decides that nothing is irrevocable--everything can be changed. He takes comfort in the knowledge that nothing is ever final, given the possibility of making things better or recovering what was lost.

They decide to take their guns and look for Bill's father. As they leave, they decide that there is no point in getting drunk. The wind outside blows all their worries away, even the Marge business that was troubling Nick.


The vignette again describes a war scene where the narrator is involved with killing the enemy. It conveys the joy of success in battle, then the dismay at having to retreat from the enemy. The act of killing, however, is extremely understated. Hemingway nearly omits any mention of violence despite the fact that in reality the scene is a deadly battle. This tendency towards omission reveals the way the narrator deals with the violence of war: he does not acknowledge it. He thus brilliantly captures the way many soldiers deal with violence and killing in war much like the author has here--not mentioning it or dealing with it in any concrete way.

"The Three-Day Blow" captures the innocence and enthusiasm of youth. Nick and his friend Bill are happy getting drunk, but their discussion about alchohol reveals its dark side, mainly in alcoholism. When they need more to drink, Bill goes to check for an unopened bottle, noting that his dad says opening a new bottle is what makes a drunkard. Nick pretends not to be drunk, and he continually gives himself tests to prove his ability to hold his alcohol.

Their dialogue and often silly behavior reveals their relative inexperience and innocence with alcohol. They discuss baseball and literature, but they eventually decide that fishing is superior to baseball. They imagine going fishing with the authors Chesterton and Walpole, and they make toasts to these authors as well.

The serious moments in the chapter come when they discuss the relationships in their lives. The conversation takes on a respectful tone when they start talking about their fathers. They both agree that Bill's father is a great man, although Bill admits he can get slightly crazy. When they start talking about Nick's father, they realize that the men are different, and Bill decides that the life of a doctor must be different from that of a painter. When Nick adds that his father has missed a lot in his life, the theme of loss contrasts with the optimism of youth expressed just before. Are his opportunities forever lost with the passage of time? The two boys are young and are able to talk about their fathers, but only the passage of time will give them the experience to truly understand. Thus we see their youth pitted against the age of their fathers.

The chapter ends with a discussion of romantic relationships. Bill commends Nick for the way he broke off his relationship with Marjorie, but this makes Nick very depressed and sad. He blames himself for his loss. "The big thing was that Marjorie was gone and that probably he would never see her again." In his youth Nick fears losing Marjorie, but the finality of this loss scares him the most. For Nick the possibility of regaining his possession of Marjorie, of getting back what he once had with her, makes him feel much better. When Bill tells him that there is still a danger of getting back together with her, he is flooded with new hope. The scene shows the importance of hope and possibility for Nick. He needs to have hope for the future, to feel as if everything lost has the prospect of being found again. Permanence of loss scares him.

The scene captures the importance of possibility for youth, as well as how young people deal with relationships and with personal loss. Nick has trouble dealing with the loss of his relationship when he sees it as gone forever, but the possibility of its renewal allows him to deal with it much better.