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 Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 42-page guide for “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 19 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Teamwork and Class.

Plot Summary

In 1933, a young man named Joe Rantz enters the University of Washington and tries out for the rowing team. Joe, who has grown up in poverty, hopes that a spot on the rowing team will keep him in school and give him a chance to prove that he belongs at Washington. His coach, Al Ulbrickson, hopes that the new freshman recruits will give him a shot at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Meanwhile, in Germany, Adolf Hitler and his advisors are also preparing for the Olympics; they plan to use the games as a PR exercise to show the world their true power and sophistication, making it that much harder for the world to challenge the Nazis once they begin their plans for invasion.

Despite punishing workouts in freezing weather, Joe makes it past several cuts to the freshman boat. At the first race against Washington’s rivals, Cal Berkeley, though the JV and varsity boats fail to win, the freshman boat exceeds all expectations, setting new records. The freshman boat performs similarly well at the Poughkeepsie Regatta in New York, and Ulbrickson begins to see that he has some talented rowers he can cultivate for the upcoming Olympics. The following year, Ulbrickson makes serious changes to the lineup, shifting the talented sophomores to the varsity boat. However, Joe and his boat mates struggle in their new position, and Ulbrickson eventually rescinds his decision. Meanwhile, Joe struggles in his personal life. Though he is deeply in love with his childhood sweetheart, Joyce, his father and stepmother, who abandoned him as a child, still shut him out their lives.

The varsity boat suffers a series of defeats. When Joe is coached by George Pocock, Washington’s master boat maker, he sets aside his hard exterior and finally connects with his teammates; they finally work with them for a common goal. Joe finds himself in the first varsity boat again as the rowing team heads first to the Poughkeepsie Regatta, then the Princeton Olympic trials. Washington wins both, and so Joe and his teammates travel to Berlin to represent America in the Olympics. The boys explore Berlin and take subtle stands against Hitler and the Nazi party.

On the day of the Olympic race, the American team is at a serious disadvantage. They have been placed in the worst lane, the weather is poor, and one of their team members, Don Home, is seriously ill. Nevertheless, they step into the boat as a team. Despite a difficult start because of tricks played by the German officials, Joe and his teammates come from behind, pulling ahead of Germany at the last second and winning the gold medal. They return home. Joe graduates from Washington, marries Joyce, and raises a family. He and his teammates get together for informal and formal reunions until one by one, they all pass away. Their story is still told, however, to each new group of freshman rowers at the University of Washington.

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