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« Speaking of Harry | Main | Sins of the mothers »

July 26, 2007

Blog-a-Book: ’Jeeves in the Offing’

Jeeves_and_wooster Since I have recently been writing about the divine notion of laughter and joy, I thought it appropriate to pick a P. G. Wodehouse novel for blog-a-book. Besides laughter, another aspect of comedy is truth. Some suggest that comedy is really a falsification of reality, but as author Adam Thirlwell writes in the Guardian Unlimited, “There is no reason why comedy should force you to falsify….Only false comedy falsifies.” Comedies provide us with glimpses of our foibles and follies. That said, above all else, P. G. Wodehouse’s highest mission, and he said so himself, was to entertain. (See Wodehouse in His Own Words.)

While Wodehouse’s comedies are timeless, I think we can all relate to the absurdities and funny situations which arise in the Wooster and Jeeves universe. Wodehouse set his Wooster-and-Jeeves comedies in a time in which he was familiar—England’s Edwardian era. 

In Jeeves in the Offing, Wodehouse quickly sets a humorous tone with the dialogue of a simple telephone call between Bertram “Bertie” Wooster, our loveable protagonist, and his Aunt Dahlia. After answering and establishing the identity of the caller, Bertie greets her warmly with “A very hearty pip-pip to you, old ancestor.” So starts this comedic tale which will be filled with frustrated lovers, a lie, a libelous article, and purloined items, along with a spot of blackmail.

Wherever Bertie goes, trouble is soon to follow. Bertie is honorable and lovable, but his Wooster Code of Honor (let's call it the W.C.H.) tends to land him in dire straits where he has to call upon his faithful and erudite butler, Jeeves, to help disentangle him or his friends from a predicament. In the foreword of Wodehouse on Crime, Isaac Asimov says the code of honor includes never sullying a woman’s name and promptly responding to situations with “act of chivalry and kindness.” Because of the Code, Bertie goes along with harebrained schemes against his better judgment.

Although readers love him, Wooster’s English landscape is positively littered with people who for one reason or another loathe the fellow. While Bertie is an intellectual lightweight, he has plenty of admirable qualities--chief among them that he isn't above a spot of larceny for a good cause. 

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