In Three Men in a Boat by Jerome, what does J. discover about himself after reading the book at the British Museum?

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chsmith1957 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

J., the narrator, was suffering from nearly every disease listed in this medical reference book. He searched the entries from A to Z, from “ague” to “zymosis”; and he realized that he had most of the symptoms that he saw. The only malady he couldn’t match up with was “housemaid’s knee.” Since he was a gentleman who probably never did housework of any kind, this makes sense.

I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need to “walk the hospitals,” if they had me. I was a hospital to myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.

This is our first encounter with J., coming early in Chapter I. We quickly learn that he is prone to taking off on tangents away from the main story line. He also tends to use exaggeration and sarcasm. It’s impossible for him to have every ailment known to mankind. He’s either admitting that he’s a hypochondriac, or he’s poking fun at himself. He also quietly makes fun of us for believing his story.

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