Three Men in a Boat

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) is a comic novel written by Jerome K. Jerome. Published in 1889, it is a humorous account of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford.

The three men are based on Jerome himself (the narrator J.) and two real-life friends, George Wingrave (who went on to become a senior manager in Barclays Bank) and Carl Hentschel (the founder of a London printing business, called Harris in the book), with whom Jerome often took boating trips. The dog, Montmorency, is entirely fictional, but "as Jerome admits, developed out of that area of inner consciousness which, in all Englishmen, contains an element of the dog." The trip is a typical boating holiday of the time in a Thames camping skiff. This is just after commercial boat traffic on the Upper Thames had died out, replaced by the 1880s craze for boating as a leisure activity.

Because of the overwhelming success of Three Men in a Boat, Jerome later published a sequel, about a cycling tour in Germany, titled Three Men on the Bummel.

Tropes used in Three Men in a Boat include:
  • Canine Companion - The chaps have the canine delinquent Montmorency.
  • Doom It Yourself - Uncle Podger seems prone to this, as illustrated by the story of his hanging a painting.
  • Epic Fail - Uncle Podger again. There are a few more examples of his approach to doing things in the sequel.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes
  • Gaslighting - Done by Jerome and Harris to George in Prague in the sequel Three Men on the Bummel. In an attempt to stop him drinking so much, they exploit the fact that the Czechs have been putting up temporary statues of King Wenceslas all around the city to work out where the real one would look best, convincing George he's having drunken hallucinations.
  • The Gay Nineties
  • Giftedly Bad - Harris singing comic songs. He appears to be capable of single-handedly giving the pianist a nervous breakdown.
  • Have a Gay Old Time - Use of the word queer to describe seasickness. However, in many ways, the book seems undated to the modern reader, with the jokes seeming fresh and witty even today.
  • Horrible Camping Trip - well, occasionally. Most of the time, they are enjoying themselves just fine, but some days are quite bad.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Quite a bit. In one passage the author breaks into an indignant speech against motor boats, and how they are unsportsmanlike and polluting, and make waves that flood your boat, and how those "boatsmen", who have them being towed by motorboats, are the shame of the honest boat-folk, and gives advise on how you should take every chance to annoy them by getting in their way. Later a friend with a motor boat offers to take them on a tow, and, naturally, before long he breaks into another indidnant speach about those clumsy assholes on their stupid oarboats, who cannot see where they are going and get in the way of respectable people and how he'd like to murder them all.
  • Induced Hypochondria - Jerome does this to himself after accidentally reading an entire medical dictionary, and becoming convinced that he has every disease described in it (except housemaid's knee).
  • In Which a Trope Is Described
  • Lemony Narrator
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body - There's a passage several pages long detailing how a person's mood depends entirely on what he is eating, and what this food is doing to the body.
  • Mood Whiplash - Because of the above the serious and somewhat sentimental passages sometimes seem a distraction to the comic novel. Many others are a leftover from the book's original concept, where it was a straight travel guide.
  • No Can Opener - which leads to...
  • Noodle Incident - we never know what exactly happened when J hitted the can with the tree for the first time. We know only that Harris got a superficial wound, while the straw hat saved George's life.
  • Stop Drowning and Stand Up - J describes this happening in a story about getting up early to swim on vacation.