Three Men in a Boat

by

Jerome K. Jerome

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Food Symbol Icon

Food in the story represents the conflict between the men’s desire for the simple pleasures of nature and the comforts of modern life. Though the men profess to seek communion with the natural world, the choices they make show that they can’t leave their city selves behind, and this is particularly evident when it comes to food. Indeed, the fact that the men stock up with so much food that they require shopkeepers to help them carry their bags to the boat evidences their refusal to accept simpler fare and leave the “lumber” of life behind. A great number of the anecdotes throughout the book further link food and drink to social mores and pretensions. Take, for example, the story in which J. has to transport some pungent cheeses from Liverpool to London as a favor to his friend. In one sense, the cheese is a symbol of refinement—buying high-quality cheese shows the purchaser to have disposable income and therefore a certain standing in society. Unfortunately for J., the cheese is so smelly that everyone he encounters along his way tries to avoid him. The cheese, then, turns into a symbol of embarrassment, another reminder of the “lumber” of life.

Later in the book, the men rejoice when they remember that they’ve brought pineapple with them. Packed in a tin, the fruit symbolizes the new opportunities afforded by the modern world in which the men live; technological advances have allowed it preservation travel far across the globe. However, because the men forget their tin-opener—another piece of “lumber” from the modern world they purport to reject—they are powerless to open the pineapple, and cause themselves stress, frustration, and injury before giving up and throwing the pineapple into the river . Finally, the men take comfort in the end of the story by returning to their favorite French restaurant. Food, here, is a symbol of modern conveniences and delicacies that, despite their protestation of modernity, are what truly bring the three men comfort and joy.

Food Quotes in Three Men in a Boat

The Three Men in a Boat quotes below all refer to the symbol of Food. 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:
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Three Men in a Boat published in 1999.
Chapter 12  Quotes

We beat it out flat; we beat it out square; we battered it into every form known to geometry—but we could not make a hole in it … There was one great dent across the top that had the appearance of a mocking grin, and it drove us furious, so that Harris rushed at the thing, and caught it up, and flung it far into the middle of the river, and as it sank we hurled our curses at it.

Related Characters: J. (speaker), George, Harris
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: Book Page 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13  Quotes

We went to a good many shops … by the time we had finished, we had as fine a collection of boys with baskets following us around as heart could desire; and our final march down the middle of the High Street, to the river, must have been as imposing a spectacle as Marlow had seen for a day.

Related Characters: J. (speaker)
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: Book Page 114
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19  Quotes

‘Well,’ said Harris, reaching his hand out for his glass, ‘we have had a pleasant trip, and my hearty thanks for it to old Father Thames—but I think we did well to chuck it when we did. Here’s to Three Men well out of a boat!’ And Montmorency, standing on his hind legs, before the window, peering out into the night, gave a short bark of decided concurrence with the toast.

Related Characters: J. (speaker), Harris (speaker), George, Montmorency
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: Book Page 169
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Three Men in a Boat LitChart as a printable PDF.
Three Men in a Boat PDF

Food Symbol Timeline in Three Men in a Boat

The timeline below shows where the symbol Food appears in Three Men in a Boat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
...rain would be difficult. People would fall out with each other, suggests J., all the supper would be soaked through with rain, and one’s “baccy” would be damp. And then they’d... (full context)
Chapter 4 
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
The three men move on to the important question of what food to take with them. They agree they should take a methylated spirit stove, because when... (full context)
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
They think of plenty of food to take but agree not to bring any cheese. Like the paraffin oil, it tends... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
His friend buys a couple of “ripe and mellow” cheeses with a “two-hundred horse power scent…that could knock a man over at two hundred yards.”... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Arriving in London, J. takes the cheeses to his friend’s wife. She can’t stand the odor either. She wonders if she can... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
Food list complete with meat and fruit pies, butter, cold meat, and an array of kitchen... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
...kitchenware—and they’re just as bad as J. The other two break a cup, tread on butter, and squash the pies, much to J’s amusement. The dog makes a nuisance of himself... (full context)
Chapter 7 
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
...appease the girls, but the new rower splashes them even more. When they stop for lunch, the girls constantly worry about getting food on their outfits. (full context)
Chapter 8 
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
The group stops for some lunch under willow trees at Kempton Park. An angry man comes to tell them that they... (full context)
Chapter 10 
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
...but do manage to find it eventually. They pull up at “picnic point” to have supper, deciding to first put up the canvas for them to sleep under. (full context)
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
...up. They put the kettle on to make some tea and set about preparing their food. J. discusses the importance of ignoring the kettle while it is boiling—he believes that a... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
The men devour their food in silence, sighing with satisfaction once they are finished. J. says there is no happiness... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
As a case in point, J. cites the effect this meal has had on the group: now they are all smiling at each other, happy to... (full context)
Chapter 11 
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Harris suggests he makes the group some scrambled eggs , for which he claims to be famous. However, things don’t go to plan, and... (full context)
Chapter 12 
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Stopping for lunch, the three men realize that they’ve forgotten to bring any mustard. Both J. and Harris... (full context)
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
Their spirits are cheered when they remember that they have brought tinned pineapple with them, at least. But their happiness quickly turns to frustration as they realize they... (full context)
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
After lunch, the boat passes by Maidenhead, which the men say is “too snobby to be pleasant.” ... (full context)
Chapter 13 
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
...stock up on provisions for the rest of the trip. They, buy vast amounts of groceries including pies, tarts, cheese, and sweets. The shops send their boys to help the men... (full context)
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
The men stop for lunch, and Harris proceeds to carve up the beefsteak pie that they are looking forward to... (full context)
Chapter 14 
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
...the river in the way of cooking,” with Harris inspired to make a big, hearty meal. He decides to make an Irish stew. (full context)
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
...potatoes they are left with are tiny and useless. George puts an unsettling mixture of food into the pot, mainly comprised of the leftovers from the food hampers (bacon, cabbage, salmon,... (full context)
Chapter 15 
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
The next morning, the three men wake late and eat breakfast. They agree to row the boat for the day (rather than tow it using ropes).... (full context)
Chapter 19 
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
...The rain keeps pouring down, making everything in the boat damp and clammy and ruining supper. They men start hankering for more luxurious food. J. wants “whitebait and a cutlet; Harris... (full context)
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
...the Alhambra. J. adds that, if they were there, they could follow it up with dinner and wine at their favorite French restaurant. Harris thinks it’s a pity they’ve already decided... (full context)
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
...bribe the doorman to let them in. After watching some ballet, they head to the restaurant. (full context)
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
J. confesses to enjoying that supper immensely. The French sauces, the smell of the wine, the attentive waiter—all of these make... (full context)