The Boys in the Boat

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Themes and Colors
Teamwork and Trust Theme Icon
Sports, Politics, and Community Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
East Versus West Theme Icon
Propaganda Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Boys in the Boat, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Perhaps the most important theme of The Boys in the Boat is teamwork, both in the sense of working as part of a literal team and the metaphorical sense of trusting and cooperating with other people. In the book, Daniel James Brown examines the 1936 American Olympic rowing team, made up mostly of juniors from the University of Washington. In order to succeed at the Berlin Olympics, the Americans had to learn how to work…

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The Boys in the Boat isn’t just a book about rowers; it’s also about the political role that athletic events play in different communities. In the first half of the 20th century, rowing was one of the most popular American sports—as popular as football or basketball in the 21st century. Teams from around the country traveled to compete, with tens of thousands of fans watching and millions more listening via the radio. As a result…

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Another major theme of The Boys in the Boat is class, and particularly the conflict between different socioeconomic classes. The book takes place during the Great Depression, an era when the collapse of the stock market and the decline of industry threatened to wipe out the middle class. Many families that had never wanted for food were thrust into poverty for the first time. At a school such as the University of Washington, where the…

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The Boys in the Boat explores the vast cultural divide between the Eastern and Western United States in the early twentieth century. While the idea of an “East-West” rivalry is still a big part of American society, especially when it comes to sports, many of the differences between Eastern and Western America have disappeared in the last century. In the 1930s, communities on opposite sides of the U.S. didn’t necessarily have access to the same…

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While the majority of The Boys in the Boat is about the American crew programs of the 1930s, the rest of the book is about the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany, hosted and organized by the Fascist government of Adolf Hitler. Working with his Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, and the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler instituted a top-to-bottom makeover for Berlin, which manipulated thousands of foreign athletes, politicians, and diplomats into…

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