Summary and Analysis of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics: Based on the Book by Daniel James Brown

Summary and Analysis of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics: Based on the Book by Daniel James Brown

by Worth Books

NOOK BookDigital Original (eBook - Digital Original)

$2.49 $3.50 Save 29% Current price is $2.49, Original price is $3.5. You Save 29%.

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now
LEND ME® See Details


So much to read, so little time? This brief overview of The Boys in the Boat tells you what you need to know—before or after you read Daniel James Brown’s book.

Crafted and edited with care, Worth Books set the standard for quality and give you the tools you need to be a well-informed reader.
This short summary and analysis of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown includes:
  • Historical context
  • Chapter-by-chapter summaries
  • Detailed timeline of key events
  • Profiles of the main characters
  • Important quotes
  • Fascinating trivia
  • Glossary of terms
  • Supporting material to enhance your understanding of the original work
About The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown:
No one expected a ragtag crew team from the University of Washington to rise to the top of their sport—much less go to the Olympics in Germany. It was the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression and the dawn of the Nazi party’s ascendance to power, and the school had never been able to beat the Ivy League teams, but coach Al Ulbrickson had big ambitions—he just needed the right athletes.
Over the next few years, the boys of the UW rowing team endured grueling days of training and countless setbacks. In the end, it was their collective dedication that brought them to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin—and beat the team rowing for Adolf Hitler.
A New York Times bestseller and the inspiration for the PBS documentary The Boys of ’36, Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat is a celebration of the human spirit and a compelling biography of a unique rowing team that brought home Olympic gold.
The summary and analysis in this ebook are intended to complement your reading experience and bring you closer to a great work of nonfiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504043083
Publisher: Worth Books
Publication date: 11/15/2016
Series: Smart Summaries
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 33
Sales rank: 892,193
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

So much to read, so little time? Each volume in the Worth Books catalog presents a summary and analysis to help you stay informed in a busy world, whether you’re managing your to-read list for work or school, brushing up on business strategies on your commute, preparing to wow at the next book club, or continuing to satisfy your thirst for knowledge. Get ready to be edified, enlightened, and entertained—all in about 30 minutes or less!
Worth Books’ smart summaries get straight to the point and provide essential tools to help you be an informed reader in a busy world, whether you’re browsing for new discoveries, managing your to-read list for work or school, or simply deepening your knowledge. Available for fiction and nonfiction titles, these are the book summaries that are worth your time.

Read an Excerpt

Summary and Analysis of The Boys in the Boat

Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

By Daniel James Brown


Copyright © 2016 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-4308-3




Author Daniel James Brown meets the father of his neighbor, ex-Olympic rower Joe Rantz, and learns about his incredible life.

Part One: 1899–1933: What Seasons They Have Been Through

Chapter One

America in 1933 is broken, filled with poverty, homelessness, and despair. Franklin Delano Roosevelt has just been elected president; Hitler has just come to power in Germany. Hitler and his cohorts, including architect Werner March, are planning to build an impressive new stadium for the 1936 Olympics as a sign of Nazi power.

At the University of Washington in Seattle, Joe Rantz and Roger Morris are trying out for the freshman rowing team that's coached by Tom Bolles. For Rantz, getting on the team is of particular importance; it's his only shot of staying in college. Rowing on the West Coast is defined by a rivalry between Washington and the University of California at Berkeley (Cal). Cal's team had won the Olympic gold medal in 1932, and Washington's head coach Al Ulbrickson is looking to the freshman recruits with hopes of bringing the Washington rowing team to the Olympics for the first time in 1936.

Need to Know

It's 1933, and the University of Washington is holding tryouts for its freshman rowing team, while the Nazis plan to host the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Chapter Two

Joe Rantz is born in Spokane, Washington, in 1914 to Harry and Nellie Rantz. His mother dies of throat cancer when he is young, kicking off a tragic childhood for Rantz, who will bounce around before settling with his father; new stepmother, Thula; and their two sons. Thula becomes frustrated with her stepson, and kicks him out of the house at age ten. He begins working for his food and shelter and learning about self-reliance.

Need to Know

Thanks to a tough childhood, Joe Rantz has been supporting himself since the age of ten.

Chapter Three

Rowing is an incredibly demanding activity, one that uses almost all the muscles in the body. The Washington freshmen start practicing and learning the craft, and, over the course of a few weeks, men start dropping out. Joe Rantz and Roger Morris remain.

Overseeing these tryouts is George Pocock, a British rower and boatbuilder who builds all of the shells for the school, as well as boats for other institutions around the country. Having descended from several generations of boatbuilders, he was recruited by Washington in 1912 and ends up assisting in the rowing instruction of the teams, becoming an institution at the university.

Need to Know

The tryouts are a test of strength and endurance that weed out many men; the whole process is watched over by the school's revered boatbuilder, George Pocock.

Chapter Four

In 1924, Joe Rantz and his family move to Sequim, Washington. He and his father build a farmhouse by hand, and Joe excels at school and music. But in 1929, after the Great Depression sets in, Rantz's stepmother again insists that they leave Joe, now fifteen, to fend for himself. He gets by on a combination of manual labor jobs and some illicit activities (poaching fish, stealing and reselling booze) all while remaining a good student. He also starts dating a local girl, Joyce Simdars.

For his senior year of high school, he moves in with his brother Fred in Seattle. He excels at gymnastics, and is spotted at practice by Al Ulbrickson of Washington, who encourages him to seek him out at the university. After graduating, Joe Rantz moves back to Sequim for a year, and proposes to Simdars.

Need to Know

At fifteen, Joe Rantz is abandoned again by his family and becomes self-sufficient, all while succeeding at school and meeting his partner, Joyce.

Chapter Five

By October 30, 1933, the group of students trying out for the freshman rowing team has been whittled down from 175 to 80. Roger Morris and Joe Rantz are becoming friends; both are able to balance their work, school, and rowing. Morris walks 2.5 miles to school every day, and earns money on weekends playing in a swing band and working for his family's moving business. Rantz helps out at the school athletic shop and does janitorial work at the YMCA in exchange for a room. Joyce Simdars has also moved to Seattle and enrolled at the university. She works as a maid to pay for her tuition.

The boys' hard work pays off; they're both selected for the first boat of the freshman crew.

Need to Know

Joe Rantz and Roger Morris work hard to survive while succeeding on the freshman rowing crew.

Part Two: 1934: Resiliency

Chapter Six

In the spring of 1934, Tom Bolles and Al Ulbrickson are preparing for an April meet against Cal, and the freshmen are looking very promising. At Cal, Ky Ebright's freshmen are doing exceptionally well, too. Ebright, a Seattle native, had learned to row at Washington, but in 1924 went to Cal and revitalized its crew program. The rivalry between the two schools grew, especially as Ebright became bitter about Washington's great advantage: the insight of George Pocock.

At the Pacific Coast Regatta against Cal, Washington's freshman crew beat Cal's easily and set a new freshman course record.

Meanwhile in Germany, Joseph Goebbels is planning for the 1936 Berlin games and amassing control over Germany's media, including its film industry. He becomes close with Leni Riefenstahl, an ambitious young filmmaker who has greatly impressed Hitler.

Need to Know

Washington's freshman crew easily beats UC–Berkeley's crew in 1934.

Chapter Seven

Following their success against Cal, the Washington team heads to Poughkeepsie, New York, for the annual race held by the Intercollegiate Rowing Association. There they will compete against East Coast schools as well.

When the freshman crew first arrives in New York, they struggle rowing in a river, rather than their home lake, but on the day of the race, they again win easily, beating the favorites, Syracuse, by five lengths.

Need to Know

Washington's freshmen win an even bigger race in Poughkeepsie.

Chapter Eight

Joe Rantz is struggling to make ends meet, doing manual labor all summer and sacrificing much to put himself through school. He tries to reconnect with his father's family, but his stepmother refuses to allow it.

At Washington, Al Ulbrickson is debating whether to move last year's successful freshman boat directly to varsity — a move that would upset many but help them prepare for the '36 games. Following Washington's successes, George Pocock's racing shells are now highly sought around the country. What makes his boats special is the use of Western red cedar, native to the Pacific Northwest, which is light and perfect for racing.

In Germany, Leni Riefenstahl is editing her famous propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, filmed at a Nazi Rally in Nuremburg in 1934.

Need to Know

Joe Rantz continues to work hard as the expectations grow for him and his fellow rowers.

Part Three: 1935: The Parts That Really Matter

Chapter Nine

As 1935 begins, Al Ulbrickson is already looking ahead to the 1936 Olympics, and is still considering making last year's freshman champs his new varsity boat, despite their unreliability as a unit. A brutal winter causes delays in their training, and rivalry grows between the boats. In the end, Ulbrickson promotes his now all-sophomore boat to varsity for the Pacific Coast Regatta in April. They go on to beat Cal in Oakland, and return to a heroes' welcome in Seattle.

Need to Know

The previous year's freshman boat becomes Washington's varsity boat, and beats Cal in the Pacific Coast Regatta.

Chapter Ten

The crew program at Washington is a big deal for the residents of Seattle, who don't have any reliable professional sports teams. They raise money to send the rowers to the Poughkeepsie Regatta, but Al Ulbrickson can't decide which of his two boats to give the varsity spot. Eventually, he gives it to an older squad, as the sophomore boat remains unpredictable. In the race, Tom Bolles's freshmen win easily, as does the sophomore boat in the junior varsity (JV) competition. The varsity team loses to Cal, leaving Ulbrickson's future at Washington murky.

Need to Know

The sophomore boat gets downgraded to JV (the lower-level team) for Poughkeepsie and wins, while the varsity boat loses.

Chapter Eleven

Al Ulbrickson's varsity boat loses another race to Cal — a 2,000-meter varsity competition, more similar to the Olympic race than the four-mile-long contest his crew lost in Poughkeepsie.

Over the summer, Joe Rantz goes to work at the Grand Coulee Dam in eastern Washington for the summer, where he becomes better friends with fellow Washington rowers Johnny White and Chuck Day.

Need to Know

The previous year's varsity boat loses another big race, while Joe Rantz becomes friends with some of his fellow rowers.

Chapter Twelve

When the school year begins, Al Ulbrickson vows that his team will win the gold medal for rowing in Berlin. He asks George Pocock to talk to Joe Rantz, who he feels is a talented but inconsistent rower. Pocock and Rantz begin spending more time together in Pocock's boat shop. Ulbrickson continues to move rowers between boats and train them for the four-mile Poughkeepsie Regatta and the 2,000-meter Olympic race.

In the fall, Rantz's stepmother and an old friend pass away suddenly, leaving Rantz distracted and impeding his performance.

In Germany, construction continues on the Reichssportfeld, and at Grünau, where the water sports will take place. During the annual Nazi rally at Nuremburg, Adolf Hitler introduces the "Blood Law," which strips citizenship from German Jews. This leads to a call in the United States for a boycott of the 1936 Olympics, but the American Olympic Committee fights back and wins.

Need to Know

Al Ulbrickson tinkers with his boats as Joe Rantz fails to impress; in Germany, the brutality of the Nazis grows.

Part Four: 1936: Touching the Divine

Chapter Thirteen

As Al Ulbrickson continues looking for the perfect crew, George Pocock becomes more involved in the coaching. He encourages Joe Rantz to trust his teammates more. Rantz is soon given a chance to prove his worth on the varsity boat, and he nails it. Pocock dubs the varsity boat's new racing shell Husky Clipper, and Ulbrickson is confident in his boat's abilities.

At the Pacific Coast Regatta, Ky Enbright and his Cal team are confident as well — his varsity boat has been breaking records in time trials. But on the big day, Washington leads all three races, with the varsity boat winning easily and decisively.

Need to Know

Joe Rantz is chosen for the varsity boat, and Washington beats Cal.

Chapter Fourteen

The boys of the varsity boat begin to prepare for Berlin, bonding on and off the water. They head to the Poughkeepsie Regatta with a new strategy: hold back at first, then speed up at the two-mile mark.

On the day of the race, the coxswain Bob Moch alters the strategy and lets Washington hang back until the third mile, worrying Al Ulbrickson, who is sure they won't be able to make up the distance. In the end, the boat pushes full-tilt in the final stretch, and they squeak out an unexpected victory.

Need to Know

Washington's varsity team wins the 1936 Poughkeepsie Regatta.

Chapter Fifteen

After Poughkeepsie, the boys from Washington head to Princeton for the Olympic trials, where they easily win their first heat and comfortably win their second, qualifying them for Berlin.

The American Olympic Committee then informs Al Ulbrickson that Washington will have to pay its own way to Germany, and — without informing his rowers about the crisis — he organizes an effort back home in Seattle. Funds pour in from all over the state, and the necessary $5,000 is raised in only two days.

The team then goes to train in New York and soak in the city before setting sail with the other US Olympians on the SS Manhattan.

Need to Know

Washington qualifies for the Olympics and sets sail for Berlin.

Chapter Sixteen

The Germans are tightly stage-managing the games — removing "undesirable" Gypsies from the streets of Berlin while masking obvious references to anti-Semitism.

The US rowing team enjoys their ride over, and the enthusiastic greeting they receive on arrival. But the trip has been hard on them; one of their key members, Don Hume, has become too ill to row, and they struggle in the boat on their first few days. The crew attends the opening ceremony — an extravagant event carefully choreographed to be overwhelming and impressive to all citizens of the world.

Need to Know

The boys from Washington head to Berlin and nervously wait for their races.

Chapter Seventeen

Conditions are poor as the boys prep for the games, and Al Ulbrickson realizes that the British use the same strategy in races — holding back, then sprinting at the end. The US team is especially wary of the Brits, who are particularly strong and from a much more privileged background, but nerves cause the rowers to grow closer.

Despite his illness, they insist on rowing with Don Hume. On the day of the preliminaries, the United States gets off to a bad start, but ends up winning, giving themselves a day off in between.

The teams in the finals are the United States, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, and Switzerland. Despite setting a world record in their preliminary, the United States receives the worst lane in the final race. And along with the British team, the US boat doesn't hear the unusually terse call to start the race.

Need to Know

The United States team wins their preliminary heat, but get off to a bad start in the finals.

Chapter Eighteen

The US boat, with the late start and poor lane, struggles to get going, and Don Hume — still very ill — seems to lose consciousness for part of the race, but regains it. They begin pushing themselves faster than ever before, and finish in a dead heat with Germany and Italy. In the end, the United States wins by six-tenths of a second.

Need to Know

The United States wins the gold medal by a hair.

Chapter Nineteen

The next day, the boys are filmed in their boat for Leni Reifenstahl's propaganda documentary Olympia before receiving their medals. While most of the men go out for a wild night in Berlin, Joe Rantz reflects on his medal and on the final few minutes of faith — and the trust he had in his fellow rowers — that got him over the touch line.

Need to Know

The Americans receive their gold medals.


The boys go home, and Joe Rantz and Joyce Simdars marry on their graduation day. Rantz goes on to work at Boeing, and the pair live in Seattle the rest of their lives. The rowers meet up once a year, and get together to row on every 10th anniversary of their victory. By 2009, all of them have passed away.


Excerpted from Summary and Analysis of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Copyright © 2016 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Cast of Characters,
Direct Quotes and Analysis,
What's That Word?,
Critical Response,
About Daniel James Brown,
For Your Information,

Customer Reviews