Three Men in a Boat

by

Jerome K. Jerome

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Three Men in a Boat: Chapter 8  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The group stops for some lunch under willow trees at Kempton Park. An angry man comes to tell them that they are trespassing, and the group mockingly challenges him to do something about it. The man goes away.
The man represents the modern world, attempting to deny the men the freedom to go where they want. The fact that more of the riverside land has become privately owned also goes against the idea of the river trip being a return to nature.
Themes
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
J. says that the owners of the land along the Thames infuriate him, as they are trying to make the river more and more private. He’d like to take the notice boards and hammer them over the heads of those that put them up. Harris says he’d also burn down their houses and slaughter their families, which J. thinks is taking it a little too far.  ­
J. and Harris want to return a time before private property. They think the river should be more “wild and free.” But they’re also just saying stuff to impress each other—Harris doesn’t really want to do the things he describes.
Themes
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Harris says he would go and sing comedy songs on the ruins of the aforementioned property owners. J. tells the reader that only Harris himself thinks he can sing—everyone else thinks he’s terrible. When Harris tries to sing at parties, he often can’t remember the words to the songs, or laughs at them before he can get them out.
Harris, like the other men, considers himself cultured. He can’t see quite how bad his singing actually is. He wants to be thought of as cultured, even if people quickly realize he’s not.
Themes
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
The talk of comedy songs prompts J. to tell another story. In it, the three men attend a “fashionable and high-cultured party,” and amongst the guests are two young German students. After the partygoers take it in turns to recite French poetry or sing songs in Spanish, the Germans ask if everyone would like to hear “the funniest song that had ever been written.” The song is sung by Herr Slossen Boschen, they say, who once preformed it for the German Emperor. Luckily, he has just arrived downstairs at the party.
This is an excellent case in point for how important it is to the three men to keep up appearances. The people at the party swap examples of their refinement, and of course wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to hear a famous German song—or be seen to be enjoying something as refined as a famous German song.
Themes
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
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Herr Slossen Boschen comes upstairs and begins his song, accompanying himself on the piano. J. doesn’t understand German, but to save face laughs whenever the two German students do. Everybody else does the same, as the singer gets increasingly furious at the ridicule. 
The mischievous students’ prank shows how fearful of embarrassment the partygoers are. They’d rather pretend to know German than be caught out as uncultured.
Themes
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Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
Related Quotes
It turns out Herr Slossen Boschen has been singing a serious folk song of tragic love and is deeply insulted by the audience’s reaction. The two German students have snuck off after their prank. J. says he hasn’t much cared for German songs since.
J. hasn’t cared for German songs since because he has been scared of being made a fool again. 
Themes
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
The boat continues up the river, passing picturesque and historic sights along the way. J. and Harris arrive at Weybridge, where they spot George and his loud blazer on the bridge. He gets in the boat, carrying a strangely shaped parcel. Harris asks whether it’s a frying pan, but it’s a banjo. George has never played before, but he has bought an instruction book.
George wants to play the banjo because it demonstrates self-refinement and, when played, contributes to a sense of leisure. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to play and doesn’t have the time or willingness to learn. The other men don’t want to put with the sound of him learning either, because it will disrupt their sense of leisure.
Themes
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon