Three Men in a Boat


Jerome K. Jerome

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Themes and Colors
The Romanticization of Nature Theme Icon
Work and Leisure Theme Icon
Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances Theme Icon
History and Heritage Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Three Men in a Boat, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Romanticization of Nature

The titular men of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, friends J., Harris, and George, are united in the simple goal of boating up the river Thames, an attempt to restore their health and well-being by escaping the allegedly toxic influence of London and getting back to nature. The men quickly struggle with the river environment, however, finding it difficult to control the boat, prepare their meals, and get…

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Work and Leisure

The Victorian era saw the rapid rise of holidaying, pleasure-seeking, and self-improvement as ways for the emergent middle class to use their time. J. and his friends live in a moment in which work and leisure became two clearly separate concepts. But as the text makes clear, leisure is not quite the clearly marked route to happiness that the characters hope for. Instead, these new pursuits come with their own pitfalls, ironically often creating, in…

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Manners, Etiquette, and Appearances

Closely connected to the book’s dissection of leisure is its examination of excessive social preening. J. accuses his contemporaries of being overly concerned with the perception of others, and throughout the book people’s preoccupation with “keeping up appearances” is a rich source of humor. Such humor is rarely intentional on the part of the characters, who are unable to transcend “formalities and fashions ... pretence and ostentation.” More often than not, Jerome shows that the…

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History and Heritage

Much like its idealized vision of nature, Three Men in a Boat presents an escapist vision of history and heritage. One of the titular men’s main reasons for taking their trip is to break away from their own cultural moment, using the journey as a route from present to past. While some passages inspired by the setting of the river do indeed bring to life specific aspects of English history, it is a fundamentally selective

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