Sundarrajk's Weblog

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Posted on: July 28, 2015


Three Men in a BoatThree Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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A typical subtle British humour. This is what the book is all about. It also has some slapstick humour in places. Three men and dog decide to take a break and go on a boat ride down the Thames.

Although the theme is a journey on the boat majority of the contents is about the incidents that the author relates about the various incidents that he and his companions has had in the past.

One of the experiences that the author recollects is the time they used to build rafts with the material they used to find lying around after having found that it was fun going on a ride in the water.
“After that, having acquired a taste for the water, I did a good deal of rafting in various suburban brickfields- an exercise providing more interest and excitement than might be imagined, especially when you are in the middle of the pond and the proprietor of the materials of which the raft is constructed suddenly appears on the bank, with a big stick in his hand.
Your first sensation on seeing this gentleman is that, somehow or other, you don’t feel equal to company and conversation, and that, if you could do so without appearing rude, you would rather avoid meeting him; and your object is, therefore, to get off on the opposite side of the pond to which he is, and to go home quietly and quickly pretending not to see him. He, on the contrary is yearning to take you by had, and talk to you.
It appears that he knows your father, and is intimately acquainted with yourself, but this does not draw you towards him. He says he’ll teach you to take his boards and make a raft of them; but seeing that you know how to do this pretty well already, the offer, though doubtless kindly meant, seems a superfluous on his part, and you are reluctant to put him to any trouble by accepting.
His anxiety to meet you, however is proof against all your coolness, and the energetic manner in which he dodges up and down the pond so as to be on the spot to greet you when you land is really quite flattering.
If he be of a stoud and short-winded build, you can easily avoid his advances; but, when he is of the youthful and longlegged type, a meeting is inevitable. The interview is, however, extremely brief, most of the conversation being on his part, your remarks being mostly of an exclamatory and mono-syllabic order, and as soon as you can tear yourself away you do so.”

This is the kind of subtle humour achieved through play of words that makes this book endearing to one.

Some more enjoyable excerpts.

The author presents how humans tend to stay away from work in this humourous excerpt.
“It always seems to me that I am doing more work than I should do. It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: The idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.
You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me: my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of room for any more, I shall have to throw out a wing soon.
And I am careful of my work, too. Why, some of the work that I have been now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a fingermark on it. I take great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.
But, though I crave for work, I still like to be fair. I do not ask for more than my proper share.
But I get it without asking for it- at least, so it appears to me – and this worries me.
George says that he does not think I need to trouble myself on the subject. He thinks it is only my over-scrupulous nature that makes me fear that I am having more than my due; and that, as a matter of fact, I don’t have half as much as I ought. But I expect he only says this to comfort me.”
Such a wonderful description of human nature to pass on ones work to others is hard to find.

This excerpt has a philosophical twist to it. In this the author speaks about how one goes on accumulating material needs in life and how this leads to problems. The author is describing their plan on what to take in the boat. During this process, George, proposes very astutely “You know we are on the wrong track altogether. We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things we can’t do without”.
“George comes out really quite sensible at times. You’d be surprised, I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards to the present case, but with reference to our trip up the river of life, generally. How many people, on that voyage, load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping with a store of foolish things which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber.
How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big house; with useless servants, and a host of swell friends that do not care twopence for them, and that they do not care three ha’pence for; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys, with formalities and fashions, with pretence and ostentation, and with-oh, heaviest, maddest lumber of all!- the dread of what will my neighbour think, with luxuries that only cloy, with pleasures that bore, with empty show that, like the criminal’s iron crown of yore, makes to bleed and swoon the aching head that wears it!
It is lumber, man-all lumber! Throw it overboard. It makes the boat so heavy to pull, you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment’s freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment’s rest for dreamy laziness – no time to watch the windy shadows skimming lightly o’er the shallows, or the glittering sunbeams flitting in and out among the ripples, or the great trees by the margin looking down at their own image, or the woods all green and golden, or the lilies white and yellow, or the sombre-waving rushes, or the sedges, or orchis, or the blue forget-me-nots.
Throw that lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.
You will find the boat easier to pull then, and it will not be so liable to upset and it will not matter so much if it does upset; good, plain merchandise will stand water. You will have time to think as well as to work. Time to drink in life’s sunshine – time to listen to the Aelion music that the wind of God draws from the human heart-strings around us”.
Not something one expects in a book of humour.
All on a wonderful read (good read will be an euphemism). A must read for all who like the likes of P. G. Wodehouse.

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