The Boys in the Boat

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Thula LaFollette (Rantz) Character Analysis

Joe Rantz’s stepmother (and, technically, sister-in-law) and Harry Rantz’s second wife, Thula LaFollette is a highly talented but frustrated woman. She excels at playing the violin, but finds few outlets for her artistry, especially after marrying Harry, who forces her to move to miserable mining towns across the Northwest. Thula takes out much of her frustration on Joe Rantz, and eventually she convinces Harry to move away and abandon his son for good. Thelma is a cruel, self-centered woman, who seems to feel no compunction about leaving a boy to feed himself, but it’s still possible to sympathize with her—like so many women at the time, she had no outlet for her talents and ambitions.

Thula LaFollette (Rantz) Quotes in The Boys in the Boat

The The Boys in the Boat quotes below are all either spoken by Thula LaFollette (Rantz) or refer to Thula LaFollette (Rantz). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Teamwork and Trust Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Boys in the Boat published in 2014.
Chapter 12 Quotes

Joe and Joyce took the four children out for ice cream and then stopped by a grocery store and bought some basic provisions before dropping them off back at the house. By the next day, when Joe checked, Harry and Thula had returned. But Joe couldn't fathom what his father and Thula had been thinking. Apparently this had been going on all summer long.

Related Characters: Joe Rantz, Joyce Simdars, Harry Rantz, Thula LaFollette (Rantz)
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

As Joe worked his way through college, he faced considerable adversity from his own family. Joe had been taking care of himself for many years, but during his junior year, he began to realize that he had to take care of his half-siblings as well. Joe’s father, Harry Rantz, and his stepmother, Thula LaFollette, were horrible parents—sometimes, they’d leave their children alone for days at a time, without enough food to go around. Joe and his girlfriend, Joyce Simdars, then took care of Joe’s half-siblings whenever they could.

Although Joe was much younger than his father or stepmother, he was a far more responsible person, as this passage clearly shows: he knew how to take care of people in need, whereas his biological father always prioritized his own needs before those of other people. With so many family responsibilities to deal with, Joe’s rowing suffered: he couldn’t concentrate on winning, and still struggled to work well with his teammates.

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Thula LaFollette (Rantz) Character Timeline in The Boys in the Boat

The timeline below shows where the character Thula LaFollette (Rantz) appears in The Boys in the Boat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Teamwork and Trust Theme Icon
Sports, Politics, and Community Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
...a woman named Thelma LaFollette. Shortly afterwards, Harry returned from Canada and married Thelma’s sister, Thula LaFollette, even though he was seventeen years older than she. Joe returned to live with... (full context)
Teamwork and Trust Theme Icon
...to feed themselves cheaply, and Joe was tasked with tending the garden. But Joe and Thula didn’t get along—eventually, Thula became so furious with Joe that she told Harry he’d have... (full context)
Chapter 4
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In November 1924, Thula Rantz was in labor, and Harry, her husband, set off to fetch a doctor. He... (full context)
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Thula disliked Sequim, and hated living on a farm. She also resented Joe and disliked his... (full context)
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Sports, Politics, and Community Theme Icon
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...promised himself that he’d survive “on his own.” In the weeks following his father and Thula’s departure, Joe learned to run the farm. He foraged for mushrooms and fished for salmon... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...up to its implications.” Around the same time, Joe found out from Fred that Harry, Thula, and his half siblings were living in Seattle. Harry had moved his family to a... (full context)
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In the fall of 1934, Joe tried to reunite with Harry, Thula, and his half siblings. When he and Joyce went to Harry’s house, Thula answered the... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...for them—a task she knew nothing about. Joe and Joyce also learned that Harry and Thula had taken to leaving their children at home for days without enough food. Thula had... (full context)
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On October 25, Joe learned that Thula was dead of septicemia (blood poisoning). He was shocked—he’d never really liked his stepmother, but... (full context)