Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat

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  • Features 19 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
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The Boys in the Boat Chapters 11-12 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 11 Summary

That summer, Joe travels to the Grand Coulee dam site, hoping to make enough money to get him through another year at Washington. He takes the highest-paying job available, one that requires him to dangle off sheer cliff faces, and finds that two of his Washington teammates—Johnny White and Chuck Day—are working there as well. The three fall “into an easy and comfortable confederacy” (202), breaking Al Ulbrickson’s rules on drinking and smoking, watching movies with women of dubious morality, and behaving like actual teenagers, “free and easy boys, cut loose in the wide expanse of the western desert” (205). Joe ponders what an Olympic medal would mean to him, and whether it would fill the holes in his heart left by his childhood abandonment and lack of a home.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, Al Ulbrickson takes his varsity boys to a one-off race against Cal and others in Long Beach, California. The race is short, only 2000 meters, and his varsity boys lose by half a second to Cal. Ulbrickson heads home with another defeat, “Quite possibly his last” (197).

Chapter 12 Summary

In Germany, the old Olympic Stadium has been “dramatically transformed” (207). The new stadium is grand and impressive, though the building surrounding it will eventually be turned to rubble during WWII. Fifteen miles away, in the village of Grunau, preparations for the rowing events are underway, as well. The Nuremberg Laws, laws which rescind the citizenship of German Jews and forbid them to work, are passed. In America, debate rages about whether the U.S. should boycott the Olympic Games, but Avery Brundage, the head of the American Olympic Committee and a virulent anti-Semite, pushes hard for the U.S. to remain in the games: “America was going to the Berlin Olympics” (226).

Joe returns to school having made enough money at Grand Coulee to pay his tuition. When Henry and Thula go out of town, Joe and Joyce visits his younger siblings, who have been left “without supervision and largely without food” (210). Thula Rantz has landed a spot on the local radio, playing her beloved violin, and has…

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