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

by Jerome K. Jerome

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Describe Harris' experience of getting lost in the maze at Hampton Court.

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This is yet another humorous adventure in a book detailing the comic capers of three men in 1880s Britain who decide to take a two-week long boating vacation on the Thames, traveling from Kingston-on-Thames to Oxford. The three are comically ill-suited to handle their many adventures. The Hampton maze episode illustrates not only Harris's incompetence as a tourist but also the incompetence of tourists in general--and perhaps the way they are deceived by being assured that difficult tasks are easy.

Harris decides he wants to go through the maze at Hampton Court, a royal palace once occupied by Henry VIII. A "country cousin" tells him that the maze is simple to navigate: you keep turning right and you'll be out in ten minutes:

Well just go in here, so that you can say you’ve been, but its very simple. Its absurd to call it a maze. You keep on taking the first turning to the right. Well just walk round for ten minutes, and then go and get some lunch.

Once inside, Harris meets up with tired, lost tourists who want to get out of the maze. In short order, Harris has:

absorbed all the persons in the maze. People who had given up all hopes of ever getting either in or out, or of ever seeing their home and friends again, plucked up courage at the sight of Harris and his party, and joined the procession, blessing him. 

Naturally, Harris has no idea what he is doing, and they all continue to be hopelessly lost. Harris becomes "unpopular." In the end, the crowd of lost souls calls out to the "keeper," who climbs into the maze with a ladder, but he is new and cannot lead them out either. They remain lost until the "old keeper" returns from dinner. With dry humor, Harris decides it is a "very fine maze" and that he will try to get George "into it" on their way back. 

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Harris tells this story in Chapter VI. We’ve already gotten a hint that Harris is the kind of person who thinks he knows everything about a subject, when he really knows very little. This tale supports the assessment.

Harris got a map of the hedge maze, and he thought he knew very well how to navigate it. He took a cousin along and assured him that they would need only 10 minutes to pass through the hedges successfully. Once in the maze, the two men kept meeting people who were lost inside it. Harris invited everyone to follow him, since he knew what he was doing. Well, naturally, the whole group ended up getting lost. They just couldn’t find their way back out, no matter which way they turned. Consulting the map didn’t help at all. Eventually the group yelled for the keeper of the maze for help. The keeper was young and new to the job, though. He brought a ladder and climbed into the maze to help the visitors – and promptly got lost, himself. They all had to wait until an older and more experienced keeper came back from his dinner, before everyone was led successfully out of the maze.

All this being said: both Harris and J. thought they should take George to the maze, on their way back past Hampton Court.

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