The Boys in the Boat

Swing Symbol Icon

The idea of “swing,” the state during which oarsmen row in perfect synchronicity (and also row most effectively), symbolizes the unity and bond of brotherhood between the nine American rowers at the 1936 Olympics. Swing is described as a kind of ideal state of harmony, one that can only be achieved when all the rowers trust and respect each other. The brotherhood and togetherness of “swing” is also implicitly contrasted to the murderous hatred and racism that motivated Hitler and the Nazis.

Swing Quotes in The Boys in the Boat

The The Boys in the Boat quotes below all refer to the symbol of Swing. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Boys in the Boat published in 2014.
Chapter 14 Quotes

As they flew down the last few hundred yards, their eight taut bodies rocked back and forth like pendulums, in perfect synchronicity. Their white blades flashed above the water like the wings of seabirds flying in formation. With every perfectly executed stroke, the expanse between them and the now exhausted Cal boys widened. In airplanes circling overhead, press photographers struggled to keep both boats in the frame of a single shot.

Related Symbols: Swing
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:
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Swing Symbol Timeline in The Boys in the Boat

The timeline below shows where the symbol Swing appears in The Boys in the Boat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Teamwork and Trust Theme Icon
One of the most important concepts in rowing, Brown says, is the concept of “swing.” Swing is a moment in which all eight oarsmen are rowing in perfect unison, so... (full context)
Chapter 13
Teamwork and Trust Theme Icon
Sports, Politics, and Community Theme Icon
...for Don Hume to pick up the stroke race slightly, and Washington rowed in perfect swing, winning the race by three boatlengths, and setting a new record for the course. Ulbrickson... (full context)
Chapter 14
Teamwork and Trust Theme Icon
Sports, Politics, and Community Theme Icon
Propaganda Theme Icon
...varsity boys had been perfecting their strokes, to the point where they could row in swing without even trying—they knew they were in great shape for the regatta. (full context)
Teamwork and Trust Theme Icon
Sports, Politics, and Community Theme Icon
East Versus West Theme Icon
...a higher rate—they were three boatlengths behind. Then, as if by magic, Washington settled into swing: the rowers seemed to be rowing with perfect efficiency. The boat moved into third, then... (full context)