Please provide a chapter-wise summary of the novel Three Men in a Boat.

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chsmith1957 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The book contains 29 chapters, originally marked by Roman numerals. Here is a summary of the main points of each one.

I – The three men -- narrator J., George, and Harris -- discuss their health issues. As a remedy for being overworked, they decide to go on a boat trip along the River Thames.

II – The friends begin to make plans. They decide to camp out in good weather and to use hotels and inns and pubs in wet weather. J. tells us more about Montmorency, the fox terrier.

III – J. relates the story of his Uncle Podger. The men make a list of supplies for the trip. They decide to use a boat with a cover as a tent. They decide about clothing.

IV – They decide about food to take, and they choose to take a “methylated spirit stove” and whiskey. J. relates a lengthy story about cheese. J. packs the equipment and clothes, and George and Harris packs the food hamper.

V – The first day of the trip. They get up late. J. talks about weather and barometers. He and Harris take the train and get into the boat at Kingston.

VI – J. and Harris start out. In the meantime, J. tells stories about Kingston, a boy named Stivvings, carved oak staircases, antiques, the year 2000 and beyond. Harris relates the story of getting lost in the Hampton Court maze.

VII – They reach Moulsey Lock. J. talks about clothing, especially about the clothing women wear for boating trips. Harris falls into the hamper in an attempt to get his drink.

VIII – They have lunch at Kempton Park. Harris wants to sing comic songs. J. relates the story of the German singer. They reach Sunbury lock. They go along the river, past graveyards, and pick up George, who has a banjo and an instruction book.

IX – J. relates two stories about tow ropes, including one where a couple is so engrossed in conversation that they don’t know they’ve lost the boat behind them. The men continue through locks. J. tells story of watching for Wallingford lock once, and not knowing that it was long gone.

X – They tie up at Picnic Point. George and Harris get tangled up as they try to put up the canvas and hoops tent. They eat supper and make tea. They relax and go to sleep under the stars.

XI – The second day of the trip. George tells the story of his stopped watch. J. goes swimming and gets George’s shirt wet. Harris tries to make scrambled eggs. The landscape reminds J. of the year 1215, King John, and the Magna Carta.

XII – They go over to Magna Carta Island. They interrupt a couple courting. J. and George remember a time when they were looking for an inn at Datchet. They lunch below Monkey Island. There’s no mustard, and they can’t open a can of pineapple. J. talks about sailing.

XIII – They reach Marlow and Boham Abbey. Montmorency is stared down by a cat. The men go shopping. J. talks negatively about steam launches. Harris tumbles into grass.

XIV – They pass the villages of Warame, Waxwoos, Sonning, and Shiplake. George makes Irish stew. Montmorency donates a water rat for the stew and argues with a tea kettle. George gets out his banjo. J. tells the story of Young Jefferson and his bagpipes. Harris gets drunk and supposedly fights off rogue swans.

XV – J. discusses work and who does most of it. He also addresses his experiences with water-related activities: rafting, learning to row, “punting” with a pole, and sailing.

XVI – They pass the town of Reading. They are pulled along by a launch owned by J’s friends. J. tells the story of a dead woman in the water.

XVII – The men wash their clothes in the river, unsuccessfully. They pay a washerwoman in Streatley to do the job instead. They spend two days in Streatley. J. tells fish stories, including the incident when he and George see the mounted trout in an inn, and they meet the many men who had caught it.

XVIII – The fourth or fifth day of the trip. J. talks about locks and tells the story of once getting caught in a lock, posing for a photographer. They pass Wallingford, Dorchester, and Abington.

XIX – They spend two days in Oxford. They begin the journey home, but it’s raining and miserable. They decide inside to take a train back to London, to eat a good dinner, and to go to a show.

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