Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

by Jerome K. Jerome
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How do the three friends pack for their trip in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome?   

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Badly, is the short answer. This section of the book really details where the author and narrator, Jerome K. Jerome, flexes his comic chops. What was supposed to be a serious guidebook is ultimately a comic look at three city boys trying to "get away from it all." In this chapter, Jerome shows his knack for slapstick comedy. Tripping over the dog while everything gets packed is one example of that. The use of hyperbole--exaggeration--is another key component of the slapstick. When J. argues against bringing cheese on the trip because of the odor he exaggerates the experience of his friend Tom, claiming that Tom cleared out a whole train car because of the smell of the cheese.  

It should be noted that Jerome ironically complains about the overpacking of the upper class in this chapter--only to overpack himself. Though his rant against it may be somewhat sincere, the irony of it adds to the humor of the chapter.

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The narrator, J., describes the packing challenges in Chapter IV. The three men and Montmorency get together for these preparations on Friday night, the night before they are set to leave on the trip. J. tells us that he had intended merely to supervise the other two men. Instead, he begins the process by example and by packing all of their clothing and personal items in a Gladstone bag. The dictionary defines this as “a suitcase with flexible sides on a rigid frame that opens flat into two equal compartments.” But J. forgets a few items and has to open the Gladstone again. Then he can’t remember if he even packed his own toothbrush. Eventually he finds it in a boot.

Harris suggests that he and George should pack the food and cooking utensils in the two hampers, since J. seemed to have problems with the task. But they don’t fare much better. Right away, they break a cup. They make a mess with the butter. And at every turn, Montmorency interferes either by putting his nose or paws into things, or by being an obstacle that must be stepped over and around. The job is not finished until after midnight. This ordeal provides a preview of the action and antics to come, after the boat is finally launched with the four of them upon it.

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