While a lot of The Boys in the Boat is about the US crew programs of the 1930s, the rest of the book is about the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany, hosted and organized by the Fascist government of Adolf Hitler. Hitler instituted a top-to-bottom makeover for Berlin, which tricked thousands of politicians, foreign athletes, and diplomats into thinking that the city and Nazi Germany was the height of civilization and enlightenment.
Competing in the Olympics Is the boys way of showing the world how they overcame depression and won against the Nazis. Hitler’s attempts to be victorious by hosting the 1936 Berlin Olympics nevertheless the American rowing team won Hitler’s Third Reich was creative in using the Olympics for its own political ends, conning hundreds of thousands of visitors into thinking of Germany as a peaceful and trustworthy country. The author highlights that rowing is a challenging sport, not only because of its physical stress but because it requires the boys to have significant concentration. Rowing was treated as a well loved American sport, even more liked than basketball, football, or baseball. As a result, rowing was seen as a test of one’s intelligence, character, and strength. To the boys rowing was more than just a fun activity it was a Signal of hope at a time when the country didn’t have a lot to look forward to. Because rowing is such a cooperative sport it becomes really important for the team to develop an unbreakable bond of trust and affection. Brown indicated that Joe’s success as a rower not in hatred of his humble origins but because of them, he had so much experience coping with the mental strain of abandonment that he knew how to focus on the task at hand and focus on succeeding.
Another major theme of The Boys in the Boat is class, and significantly the conflict between totally different socioeconomic categories. The book takes place throughout the Great Depression, an era when the collapse of the stock market and therefore the decline of industry threatened to wipe out the middle class. Several families that had never wanted for food were thrust into poverty for the first time. At a school like the University of Washington, where the book is set, the divide between the wealthiest and the poorest Americans was significantly stark. A number of the university’s students had never worked a day in their lives, whereas others, like Joe Rantz, may only be university students because they’d previously been operating regular jobs. Through the character of Joe Rantz, Daniel James Brown studies the bullying and discrimination that working-class Americans typically have to endure, and how some Americans succeeded in overcoming their abuse. At the University of Washington, Joe is the target of endless class discrimination. He came from a family with little money, and he had to take care of himself since the age of fifteen, often working full-time just to have food to eat and a house over his head. On the other hand, some of his classmates came from rich families, and had no experience working for a living. They bullied Joe for his clothing, his bad manners, and other things that signified his working-class roots. Joe was particularly conscious of the divide between upper-class and working-class as a member of the university rowing team.
So many people left the 1936 Berlin Olympics impressed with Nazi Germany testifies to the disturbing ingenuity of Nazi propaganda. At a time when Hitler was instituting a series of brutal, repressive laws, Goebbels essentially rebuilt the city of Berlin to make it appear as open and inviting as possible. Goebbels passed ordinances to evict homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, the disabled, and dozens of other groups that Hitler had targeted, and send these groups far from Berlin. In doing so, he ensured that there would be very few people in Berlin who could testify to the full cruelty of the Nazi state. Goebbels also stocked bookstores with works that Hitler had banned previously in all, making Berlin seem to be a city of happy, tolerant people, rather than the nightmarish police state Hitler had created. At the same time, the Ministry of Propaganda endeavored to make Germany seem strong and imposing. The director Leni Riefenstahl made films that glorified the Aryan racial ideal, around which Hitler had constructed his government. The Ministry also designed a massive Olympic stadium whose proportions symbolized Germany’s awesome power. In a way, the Nazis’ Olympic propaganda was an extension of Hitler’s foreign policy in the mid-1930s: showcasing Germany’s strength while also emphasizing its benevolence. Because of the contributions of Riefenstahl, Goebbels, and other Nazi propagandists, the 1936 Olympics successfully convinced powerful foreigners that the Nazi regime should be respected and admired.
While a great deal of The Boys in the Boat is regarding the U.S. crew programs of the 1930s, the remainder of the book is regarding the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany, hosted and arranged by the Fascist government of potentate. Adolf Hitler instituted a top-to-bottom makeover for Berlin, that tricked thousands of politicians, foreign athletes, and diplomats into thinking that the town and Nazi Germany was the peak of civilization and enlightenment.
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