Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

Describe the hypochondriac behavior of the 3 men in the first chapter.

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The narrator, J., is smoking in his room with his friends, George and William Samuel Harris, and his dog Montmorency. The men, all hypochondriacs, are chatting about their latest illnesses, each man certain that he is in danger of death or serious disease.

In a flashback, J. recollects how he once went to the British Museum to research a treatment for his hay fever, and after reading about diseases, convinced himself that he was suffering from every illness known to man except for housemaid’s knee. J.’s doctor, clearly recognizing the man's paranoia, prescribed him beefsteak, beer, walking, and good sleep habits, and urged him not to “stuff up your head with things you don’t understand” (10).

J. still believes that he suffers from every disease, but he is especially concerned about his ‘liver condition’ – the main symptom of which is “a general disinclination to work of any kind” (10).

The friends decide that taking a vacation together would restore their health, and debate locations for a week-long excursion. J. suggests a rural, old-world spot, but Harris wishes to avoid remote locations and counters with the suggestion of a sea cruise. J. vetoes that idea because one week is not enough time to overcome seasickness and actually enjoy the trip. He notes to the reader that no one admits to being seasick on land, but that many people have trouble with it when actually on a ship. George suggests taking a boat trip down the Thames, an idea that everyone approves. Though J. worries that Montmorency will get bored in the boat, they decide to bring him along anyway.