Summary of 3 man in a boat
The novel ‘Three Men in a Boat’ is narrated by J who takes up a boat trip with his friends George, Harris and their pet dog Montmorency. One night, the three men get paranoid about their health and each believes that he is suffering from a host of diseases. For the sake of their good health, the three men decide to take up a boat ride along the River Thames.
They men come to a consensus that camping outdoors may be difficult if it starts raining. So they decide to sleep in inns when the weather gets bad.
The three men start making a list for the items to be carried in the boat. The writer compares his friend Harris to his uncle Podger who always assumes responsibility before dumping on the work on the others. Ultimately, the list they prepared is very long. So they decide to carry only the things they cannot do without.
The friends decide to carry a methylated spirit stove for cooking. They decide on easy to make meals such as eggs but decided against getting cheese owing to its smell. J narrates a story when his friend Tom once asked him to carry some cheese on a train. All the people had vacated the car J. was sitting in. When the cheese was given to Tom, his wife refused to set foot into the house because of its stench. The three men start packing but they keep forgetting things. They start quarrelling with each other while hilariously tripping over Montmorency.
The three men oversleep and wake up at 9 when Mrs. Poppets arrives. Harris, George and J. become disheartened when the weather turns bad. They carry their enormous luggage and hail a taxi to the train station. There they are told that the conductors are unaware of the train’s course and destination. After offering him a half-a-crown bribe, they move towards Kingston to start their journey.
They start their adventurous journey rowing through Kingston. They pass by pubs that Queen Elizabeth was known to visit. In the boat, Harris and Montmorency drop the food hamper and spill its contents. They row past Hampton Court and admire its architectural beauty but conclude that it would be depressing to live. Harris discusses the time when he was trapped in a maze at Hampton Court.
J. criticizes George for bringing an ugly blazer for the trap. He also reproaches Harris for wearing an ugly yellow outfit that does not suit him. At the Hampton Church, Harris suggests that they visit the graveyard to find a funny tombstone that was rumoured to be there. J recounts a story where once he refused to step into a graveyard. George goes to town to run some errands, and Harris and J. argue about visiting the graveyard. Harris also falls into the food hamper as he tried to retrieve the whiskey bottle.
Harris and J. stop by the side of the river to have lunch. They are apprehended by a man who accuses them of trespassing. Harris frightens him and makes him leave. They conclude that the man had intended to bribe them. J. tells Harris that he cannot sing. George surprises them by announcing that he bought a banjo.
George is assigned the task of untangling the tow-line while the other two make tea. While drinking tea, George narrates a story of how he tied his tow-line of his boat to a distracted couple’s boat.
They feel too tired to travel to Magna Charta. So they stop the boat and decide to spend the night inside it. The try to cover the boat by dragging the canvas over it. After multiple attempts the manage to set it correctly.
Chapter 11 begins with George telling J. a story about how he forgot to wind his watch before bed and ended up waking up at 3 in the morning. This aroused the suspicion of the police constables who found him walking around London in the wee hours of the morning. J., George and Harris went for a morning swim and later Harris, who had no idea how to make srambled eggs, tried his hand at it and failed miserably. They later arrive at Magna Charta Island and J. mused about being a peasant at the time when King John signed the Magna Charta.
In Chapter 12, the men passed through Picnic Point where King Henry was known to have courted Anne Boleyn. J. spoke about the predicament of the locals who must have had a hard time giving privacy to the couple. He later added that it is indeed awkward walking in on couples who were “spooning”. They passed through the place where Earl Godwin was known to have choked after being accused of Edward the confessor’s brother’s murder. They finally came across a boy who offered them a place to stay in and they were grateful for it. After having forgotten the mustard at home, the trio settled for a can for pineapple to eat with lunch. They soon gave up after unsuccessfully trying to open the can. They passed by three old men fishing who cursed them because Harris’ poor steering disturbs the water. The friends decided to stay at an inn in Marlow that night.
In Chapter 13, the trio passed through Marlow, Bisham Alley and Medemenham where they came across an abbey where an order of prodigious monks once lived. During lunch, Montmorency got intimidated by a cat and its menacing stare. They stocked up on food in Marlow but they found it difficult to leave due to the large number of steam-launches in the water. Faced with a water shortage, the trio pondered about drinking the river water. They eventually ended up drinking some water from a nearby cottage which they thought was from the river as well. The day ended comically with Harris falling off the edge of a gulch and J and George thinking he was dead.
In Chapter 14, the men make Irish strew but they ended up over-peeling the potatoes. Montmorency caught a water rat which he thought could be added to the stew but the men declined. The stew turned out to be delicious. Startled by the tea-kettle, Montmorency attacked it. George’s dismal banjo playing was accompanied by Montmorency’s howling. This prompted the others to request him to never play again. It was mentioned that George was forced to have sold his banjo due to complaints from his landlady and the passersby. After a night out, George and J. forgot where the boat was docked. Eventually they followed Montmorency’s barks and found the boat. Harris narrated an incident where he single-handedly fought of a swarm of aggressive swans whose nest they disturbed.
In Chapter 15, the friends discussed who will tow the boat since it is the most strenuous job. They rowed the boat to Reading where J. would tow it for a while. Since J. had had some experience in rowing, he named the different types of rowing a boat as well as the common mistakes people make when they try rowing for the first time. He described punting as a type of rowing where the passenger propels the boat in the right direction pushing a long pole into the riverbed. He then warned them about the hazards of punting by recounting a story of a friend who was left clinging to the pole as the boat drifted away. He also mentioned another occasion when he and his friends heckled an amateur punter mistaking him for someone they knew. Harris added by narrating an incident where he held a person’s head under water thinking he was a friend. The chapter ends with J sharing another anecdote involving his friend Hector.
The men approach Reading in Chapter 16. J. mentioned that the now polluted and crowded Reading was once a popular destination for Londoners to escape the plague. They got a respite from rowing when an acquaintance with a steam-launcher helped them by towing their boat for miles. They saw the corpse of a woman floating in the water as they reached Goring. They took her to the coroner and found out that she had killed herself because she begot a child out of wedlock and her family abandoned her.
In Chapter 17, the men tried doing their laundry by washing their clothes in the river but they ended up making them even dirtier than before. They readily pay a washerwoman who charged three times the normal rate to wash their clothes since they were so dirty. Later, J. emphasized on the importance of lying about one’s fishing prowess. George and J. go to a pub in Wallingford. Three patrons tried to take credit for a large trout hanging on the wall. Each had his own story and an estimation of its weight. Their lie was exposed when George grabbed on to the trout to stop himself from tripping and ended up displacing it. It fell on the ground and shattered into pieces. It is then revealed that the fish was made of plaster of Paris.
Chapter 18, starts with J.’s discussion of the Thames without “its flower-decked locks”. He narrated another anecdote involving him and George in Hampton Court where a photographer took pictures of a steam-launch. He called out to the duo to stay away from the frame. In an attempt to keep their boat out of the frame, both fell with their feet up in the air. Their feet took up nine-tenths of the image and the annoyed owner of the steam-launcher refused to foot the bill.
In the 19th Chapter, the trio went to Oxford. Montmorency also regaled himself by fighting with the other stray dogs. J. explained the logic behind why some people who vacation on the Thames start from Oxford and move down to London. It helped their boats to move along with the current. He said that the boats in Oxford are too bad to be rented hence it is important to bring one’s own boat. He recounted when he had once mistaken an Oxford boat for an ancient artifact. The incessant rains ruined their journey back from Oxford. They pass their time by playing penny nap and listening to George playing the banjo. Though he was ridiculed for his banjo-playing skills in a previous chapter, George rendered a mournful tune of “Two lovely black eyes”. This caused the other two to be more depressed. They aborted their trip and retired into an inn in Pangbourne where they regaled the guests with their adventures and misadventures from the trip. In the end, they raised a toast their decision to abandon the trip. Montmorency barked in order to concede with the three.