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 3-5 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 3 Summary

Back at the University of Washington, Joe and his fellow freshman recruits struggle to grasp the basics of collegiate rowing. They are warned that achieving a spot on the Washington rowing team is a difficult task and that most of them will give up by the end of the semester, choosing to play “something less physically and intellectually demanding, like football” (41). Joe notices another man who is often present at practice, though he never speaks. This is George Pocock; the master craftsman responsible for building the world’s best racing boats. Pocock was born into the racing shell business, as his father was a famous boat builder. He grew up in England, a working class boy among privileged sons of lords at Eton, a prestigious boarding school. Pocock and his brother eventually moved to Vancouver, Canada, where they built racing shells and George met Hiram Conibear, then head of the Washington rowing team. Conibear recruited the brothers, and Pocock has resided at the University of Washington ever since, building boats and advising coaches on technique: “In the years since coming to Washington, Pocock had become its high priest” (48).

At first, Joe and the rest of the recruits try to master rowing on Old Nero, the freshman try-out boat, which is designed to be a rite of passage. Old Nero was designed to weed out the “mollycoddles” (49), those too weak for the crew’s many demands. Joe’s new friend Roger is the only freshman with rowing experience, but even he has never rowed with a team, and only on the placid waters of Manzanita Bay. The boys struggle to row in tandem and handle their oars correctly, and the three-hour workouts leave them “blistered and bleeding” (51), covered in “a clammy mixture of sweat and lake water” (51). Joe is grimly pleased to see that the first boys to drop out are those with “impeccably creased trouser and freshly polished oxfords” (51). Joe resolves to work through the punishing workouts. After all, “Hurting was nothing new to him” (51).

Chapter 4 Summary

Brown returns to Joe’s childhood. In 1924,…

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