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

by Jerome K. Jerome

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What are some key points in "A Fishy Story" from Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat?

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Jerome K. Jerome’s tale of a “fish story” is a humorous exploration of the kinds of fabricated tales that fishermen are known for telling. In this story, not one man but five men tell different versions of catching the same fish.

One question the author answers is the way that each man makes his story seem more believable than the others. Jerome says that a man’s ability to lie without blushing is not enough “to make a good fisherman.” Rather, what is required is a large amount of believable information: “the circumstantial detail, the embellishing touches of probability, the general air of scrupulous—almost of pedantic—veracity . . . ”

Typically, when people get into a competition in telling about the same event, the scope and complexity of the event increases. A relevant question here would be, how much did the fish weight? The answers will vary according to the person telling the tale.

The most basic question is, of course, who caught the trout in the case? The correct answer is that none of the men caught it. It is made of plaster.

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Narrator J. tells this story in Chapter XVII. Here are some suggestions for Qs and As.

Q: Where does this encounter take place?

A: At a river-side inn in Wallingford.

Q: What species of fish is on display in the glass case? What species does the narrator J. think it is, at first, and why?

A: A trout; although J. thinks at first that it is a cod because it is quite large. 

Q: How many fishermen (including the innkeeper) tell J. and George stories about how they landed the fish?

A: Five.

Q: What happens to the glass display case?

A: George accidentally knocks it to the floor, and it breaks open. 

Q: What kind of fish is it, really?

A: A fake one, made out of plaster-of-Paris.

Q: What stereotype is furthered by this story?

A: That all fishermen like to exaggerate and to tell tall tales about their catches.

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