Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat

  • 42-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 19 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an academic writing expert from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts
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The Boys in the Boat Chapters 16-18 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 16 Summary

As Joe and the others sleep on the Manhattan, Nazi soldiers clear Roma (gypsy) families out of Berlin and place them in detention camps, preparing to make the city as clean and orderly as possible. Berlin has been transformed into a fake, movie-ready city, with previously banned books appearing again in store windows and anti-Semitic drawings suddenly removed from newspapers. Leni Riefenstahl sets up her cameras, and “she and all of Berlin waited for the rest of the cast to arrive” (300).

On board the Manhattan, Joe and his teammates eat, watch movies, and mingle with the other Olympians. The ship docks in Hamburg and the boys take a train to Berlin, where the locals gawk at their height—they are all over six feet, except for little Bobby Moch. The boys are set up in Kopenick, a charming, 18th century village a few miles from the race track at Grunau. Joe marvels at the town, which is so different from anything in Washington.

The boys practice in Grunau and find the German oarsmen to be “courteous” (310) but “a bit arrogant” (310). They baffle the locals by responding to “Heil Hitler!” with “Heil Roosevelt!” and wearing Native American feather headdresses as a prank. Ulbrickson studies the competition and decides that the British boat is “the boat to beat” (313). At the Olympic opening ceremony, Goebbels and Leni Riefenstahl scream at each other over the placement of her cameras. As the various nations file into the stadium, some offer the Nazi salute, some offer the Olympic salute, but the Americans offer no salute at all to Hitler, holding “the Stars and Stripes defiantly aloft” (318). The opening ceremony is a grand pageant, and the boys are suitably impressed.

Chapter 17 Summary

The boys continue to practice on the race track, but find their times are not improving, and Ulbrickson “wasn’t at all happy with their progress” (322). Adding to their problems is the fact that America will be in the farthest lane, the one most difficult to row, while Germany and Italy, the Axis powers, are granted the easiest lanes closest to…

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