By Jerome K. Jerome
(An extract from Three Men in a Boat)
About the Author
Jerome Klapka Jerome was born on 2nd May, 1859 in Belsize House, Bradford Street, Walsall, Staffordshire, England. Jerome’s childhood was very difficult as his parents were falling into financial ruin and it left its mark on him.
The young Jerome attended St Marylebone Grammar School. He wished to go into politics or be a man of letters, but the death of his father when Jerome was 13 and of his mother when he was 15 forced him to quit his studies and find work to support himself. He was employed at the London and North Western Railway, initially collecting coal that fell along the railway, and he remained there for four years.
Jerome was inspired by his older sister Blandina’s love for the theatre, and he decided to try his hand at acting in 1877, under the stage name Harold Crichton.
On 21 June 1888, Jerome married Georgina Elizabeth Henrietta Stanley Marris, nine days after she divorced her first husband. The honeymoon took place on the Thames “in a little boat,” a fact that was to have a significant influence on his next and most important work, Three Men in a Boat.
On 14 June 1927 Jerome died in Northampton General Hospital after suffering a series of strokes. He was cremated at Golders Green, Middlesex on 17 June and his ashes buried at St Mary’s Church, Ewelme, Oxfordshire.
Image & Text Reference: en.wikipedia.org
This is a humorous story about the confusion and mess created by people who are inexperienced in the art of packing. The narrator of the story and his two friends decided to go on a holiday. The author thought that he was an expert in packing. He asked his friends, George and Harris to leave packing to him. When he had finished packing, certain things remained out. He opened the bag again. In the same way, he had to pack and unpack time and again. The packing was still not complete. Harris and George undertook to do the rest of the job. But they were also not expert in packing. They damaged a number of things and did the job shabbily. At last the packing was complete by 12.50 in the night. They went to bed with the intention of waking up at 6.30 in the morning.
The author and his friends decided to go on a holiday. The author thought he was an expert in packing. He told his friends, George and Harris that he would do the packing. They at once agreed to his suggestion. The narrator started packing. It seemed a longer job than he had thought it was going to be. At last he finished packing. But Harris told him that he had not packed the boots. He opened the bag and packed the boots in. Then when he was going to close it, an idea came to him. He was not sure whether he had packed his toothbrush. So he unpacked the bag and took everything out but could not find the toothbrush. Then he shook everything one by one. At last he found his toothbrush in a boot. He repacked once more. Now George asked him if he had packed the soap. He decided not to do the packing again. A little later he realized that he had packed his tobacco pouch in it. So he reopened the bag and repacked it. He was able to complete the packing at 10.05 p.m.
George and Harris said that they were not satisfied with the packing done by the author. So they decided to do it themselves. But they created chaos while packing things. They started packing with breaking a cup. Then Harris packed the strawberry jam on top of a tomato and squashed it. George trod on the butter. They put things and could not find them when they wanted them. They packed the pies at the bottom and put heavy things on top and smashed the pies. Harris found butter sticking to the sole of George’s slipper. He got the butter off the slipper and put it on a chair. Harris sat on the butter and it stuck to him. They started looking for it all over the room. Then suddenly George saw it on the back of Harris. When they finally found it, they packed it in the teapot. Their dog increased the confusion. He thought lemons to be rats and chased them. He put his leg in the jam and spoiled it. At last, the packing was completed at 12.50 and the three friends went to sleep with the intention of getting up early the next morning.
Q. How many characters are there in the narrative? Name them.
Ans. There are four characters in the story, viz. Jerome, George, Harris and the dog.
Q. Why did the narrator (Jerome) volunteer to do the packing?
Ans. The narrator thought that he was an expert in packing.
Q. How did George and Harris react to this? Did Jerome like their reaction?
Ans. George and Harris at once agreed to his suggestion as they wanted to loaf around while Jerome would do the packing.
Q. What was Jerome’s real intention when he offered to pack?
Ans. Jerome’s real intention was to show off his talent at packing the things.
Q. What did Harris say after the bag was shut and strapped? Why do you think he waited till then to ask?
Ans. After the bag was shut and strapped, Harris asked if Jerome forgot to pack the boot. He wanted to enjoy the irritation on Jerome’s face so he waited till last.
Q. What “horrible idea” occurred to Jerome a little later?
Ans. Jerome was not sure if he packed his toothbrush or not. In the past also Jerome has similar mishaps with packing or unpacking of toothbrush.
Q. Where did Jerome finally find the toothbrush?
Ans. After searching through everything, Jerome found the toothbrush inside a boot.
Q. Why did Jerome have to reopen the packed bag?
Ans. After packing the bag Jerome realized that he packed his tobacco pouch inside, so he had to reopen it once again.
Q. What did George and Harris offer to pack and why?
Ans. George and Harris offered to pack the bag which would contain edible items. They also wanted to show off their packing skills.
Q. While packing the hamper, George and Harris do a number of foolish and funny things. Tick the statements that are true.
(i) They started with breaking a cup. (T)
(ii) They also broke a plate.
(iii) They squashed a tomato. (T)
(iv) They trod on the butter. (T)
(v) They stepped on a banana.
(vi) They put things behind them, and couldn’t find them. (T)
(vii) They stepped on things. (T)
(viii) They packed the pictures at the bottom and put heavy things on top.
(ix) They upset almost everything. (T)
(x) They were very good at packing.
Q. What does Jerome say was Montmorency’s ambition in life? What do you think of Montmorency and why?
Ans. Monmorency’s ambition in life was to disturb people and be sworn at in the bargain. It always made a mess of everything the way most of the pet dogs do while in a playful mood.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q. Of the three, Jerome, George and Harris, who do you think is the best or worst packer? Support your answer with details from the text.
Ans. In spite of forgetting certain things to pack or getting confused about some things, Jerome seems to be the best packer. He packs things the way they should be. He knows what to keep first and what to keep last. He doesn’t create a mess all around.
It is difficult to select the worst packer from Harris and George. Harris smashes tomato while packing the bottle of jam over it. George treads on butter and creates a mess all around. Then he tries to put it in the kettle. After this Harris sits on the butter kept on the chair. After the butter sticks to Harris’ behind both of them start searching for it. They put lighter things at the bottom and heavier things at the top. Both George and Harris are equally horrendous in packing.
Q. Describe how the author packed the bag for going on a trip?
Ans. The narrator started packing. It seemed a longer job than he had thought it was going to be. At last, he finished packing. But Harris told him that he had not packed the boots. He opened the bag and packed the boots in. When he was going to close it, an idea came to him. He was not sure whether he had packed his toothbrush. So he unpacked the bag and took everything out but could not find the toothbrush. Then he shook everything one by one. At last, he found his toothbrush in a boot. He repacked once more. Now George asked him if he had packed the soap. He decided not to do the packing again. Soon he found he had packed his tobacco-pouch in it. So he reopened the bag and repacked it. He was able to complete packing at 10.05 p.m.
Q. Do you find this story funny? What are the humorous elements in it?
Ans. The story is very funny. The chaos and confusion created by all the characters amuse the reader. The gap between their self-assessment and their actual capabilities makes us burst into laughter. Jerome’s sense of pride about his packing skills and the manner in which he is left alone to pack the bag is very funny. While Jerome expected to use the opportunity for bossing over his friends, they make him toil instead. The frequent forgetfulness of Jerome and the subsequent unpacking of the bag many times over dilute his hard work and amuse the reader. Harris and George’s faltering and fumbling while packing the hamper is very amusing and rib-tickling. The butter episode, in particular, generates side-splitting laughter.
The dog’s contribution to humour is no less significant. His indiscipline and animal-curiosity earn him curses and hits from his masters but he still manages to put his leg in the jam and chase lemons like rats. Hence, all these instances lend humour to the story.