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 Important Quotes

1. “‘But it’s not just about me. It has to be about the boat.’” (Prologue, p. 3)

When Brown first meets Joe Rantz, he tells Joe that he’d like to write a book about Joe’s experiences. Joe is quick to correct Brown—any book about the 1936 Olympics must be about the whole boat, not just Joe. This quote sets up the theme of teamwork and shows how the individual becomes superseded by the collective in rowing.

2. “The very heart of the Olympic ideal—that athletes of all nations and all races should comingle and compete on equal terms—was antithetical to his National Socialist Party’s core belief: that the Aryan people were manifestly superior to all others.” (Chapter 1, p. 20)

Here, Brown dissects the irony of Nazi Germany hosting the 1936 Olympics. Hitler, with a manifesto based on the superiority of one ethnic group, is the last person who should be tasked with hosting an event meant to bring nations together. Though Hitler does not believe in Olympian ideals, he sees a way to use the event as a PR stunt for his regime.

3. “Home, it was beginning to seem, was something you couldn’t necessarily count on.” (Chapter 2, p. 31)

Joe’s early experiences—such as losing his mother and being abandoned by his father—imbued him with a strong sense that home is temporary and fleeting. Joe learns that to feel belonging is to set oneself up for heartache and so resolves not to count on anyone or anything but himself.

4. “He went back upstairs and told his son he would have to move out of the house. Joe was ten.” (Chapter 2, p. 37)

This is major moment in Joe’s life. His father chooses to side with Joe’s abusive stepmother, Thula, and leave his small child alone in the world rather than confront his wife. Harry Rantz chooses his wife over his helpless child, and this betrayal will greatly affect Joe’s perception of the world.

5. “He was sick and tired of finding himself in this position—scared and hurt and abandoned and endlessly asking himself why. Whatever else came his way, he wasn’t going…

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