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

by Jerome K. Jerome
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What is a brief account of the packing incident in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome?

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As flavoring for the tone of the whole packing incident, J. says he's especially good at packing, and he should do it. Harris and George agree "with a readiness that had something uncanny about it," meaning J. felt something was not quite right. J. of course meant he'd supervise the packing while they packed. They of course meant he'd pack while they watched from lounging positions. J. packed all their personal belongings, from boots to toothbrushes. And it was boots and one toothbrush that he left out. After going through several unpleasant rounds of unpack, repack, unpack, repack, the job was done, with only the soap (possibly) and J.'s tobacco-pouch giving further trouble.

Harris and George thought that after J.'s display of expert packing, they'd better pack the foods and supplies. They had the "big hamper" to pack with these items. J. watched, feeling that "the thing would soon be exciting." They started by breaking a cup, then squashing tomatoes with the jam. Then they packed the pies and "smashed the pies in" with heavy things on top. They spilled salt everywhere then, in turns, stepped on the butter, tried to cram it into the water kettle, sat on the butter, hunted for the now missing butter (until George got a back view of Harris), and finally shoved it into the teapot.

...After George had got it off his slipper, they tried to put it in the kettle. It wouldn't go in, and what was in wouldn't come out. They did scrape it out at last, and put it down on a chair, and Harris sat on it, and it stuck to him, and they went looking for it all over the room. "I'll take my oath I put it down on that chair," said George, staring at the empty seat.

Sitting, at the end of everything, on the lid of the packed, closed hamper, Harris said he hoped nothing "would be found broken," to which George replied that "if anything was broken it was broken." Montmorency performed up to expectations during the packing incident by assuming his cold nose was what Harris's and George's hands were reaching for; by sitting on the very item that was to be packed next; by upsetting the spoons; by putting his leg into the jam and by attacking the lemons in the hamper. Other packing incidents occur as they go along, but this is the central and first packing incident.

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The men pack for their river trip in Chapter IV. As usual, the task takes longer and is made more complex by the packers. The narrator packs all of their clothing in a Gladstone bag, which the dictionary defines as “a suitcase with flexible sides on a rigid frame that opens flat into two equal compartments.” When he is done, he discovers that he had forgotten to put the boots in. He also can’t remember if he packed his own toothbrush. So he has to rummage through the bag to make sure. He eventually finds it in one of the boots.

Harris and George pack the food and cooking utensils into two hampers. It takes them two hours. They break a cup. They put heavy items on top of things that shouldn’t be squashed – like a tomato – and then have to clean the resulting mess out of the hamper. Harris sits on the butter and it sticks to him, and the two men have a difficult time finding it again. Montmorency, the dog, gets involved by putting his leg into the jam. All the while, the narrator merely watches this scene, amused. The episode gives us a good introduction to how the rest of the trip will proceed.

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