Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) Questions and Answers
by Jerome K. Jerome

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What is Uncle Podger's morning like before he catches the train to work?

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David Wisar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Uncle Podger is an example of a man who has set his mind on being an example of good manners and work ethic but fails miserably based on his pride. Podger sets out each morning well before he has to leave for work, but he is almost always late and running to catch the train, despite always telling his nephew,

Allow yourself a quarter of an hour, and take it easily. (Chapter 5)

His house is only an eight minute walk from the train station, but because he leaves just five minutes before the train every day, he always has to run. Now, the narrator explains that Podger is to blame for his tardiness because he is forgetful and careless, but he has too much pride to allow himself to shoulder the blame. Instead of recognizing that he always misplaces his newspaper or tends to forget his things, he blames everyone else in the house for misplacing them. The narrator relates,

It never occurred to my Uncle Podger to say to himself:

"I am a careless old man. I lose everything: I never know where I have put anything. I am quite incapable of finding it again for myself. In this respect I must be a perfect nuisance to everybody about me. I must set to work and reform myself."

On the contrary, by some peculiar course of reasoning, he had convinced himself that whenever he lost a thing it was everybody else's fault in the house but his own. (Chapter 5)

Uncle Podger is unable to blame himself for the things he loses but instead stays stuck in his mode of thinking that everyone else is at fault for his misfortune. This means that he never gets out of the house earlier than five minutes before the train arrives. Along with misplacing his newspaper, he often loses his hat and umbrella, then has to say goodbye to all the children—some of who are invariably missing, and then he once again forgets his hat and umbrella after running out of the house.

The way the narrator describes the events, it's almost a ritual. Despite his best intentions, Uncle Podger is stuck in a sad ritual of perpetual tardiness, unable to recognize his faults and correct the issue so that he might be able to walk to the train station sensibly. Instead, he is upset that the local nurses, maids, and children stand around watching him and other gentlemen sprint to catch the train—something that is of great interest to the people who have little to do in the morning.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Uncle Podger rises bright and early each morning, so no one could accuse him of being lazy. However, the problem is that he's a careless old man who has an annoying habit of losing things. Right after breakfast, it's his newspaper that suddenly seems to disappear. His evident annoyance and frustration are made worse by his blaming everyone else but himself for the missing paper. It's as if he's surrounded by conjurers who deliberately make things vanish into thin air. But it's always found eventually; most of the time Uncle Podger's been sitting on it.

Once breakfast's out the way, the children line up in the hallway to say goodbye to Uncle Podger before he sets off for work. But as sure as night follows day, there's always at least one child missing, which causes the others to search high and low for them. This gives Uncle Podger just enough time to lose his umbrella and hat. Once they, and the errant child, have been retrieved, Uncle Podger's already lost precious time. But just before he finally leaves, there's one last delay. One of the boys will make up a story about his being late for school due to the clocks being five minutes slow. This results in Uncle Podger dashing off to work, only to stop at the gate once he's realized that he's mislaid his bag and umbrella yet again.

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