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The Book Club

P.G. Wodehouse’s The Code Of The Woosters

1. An enjoyable, light-hearted read. Given that this is my first experience with P.G. Wodehouse’s famous creations Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, “The Code Of The Woosters” was a thoroughly enjoyable and light-hearted read. The plot revolves around a small band of characters (who are associated through friendships and other relationships), is developed within a couple of isolated locations, and the assorted conflicts or tensions are very closely interlinked. The story moves along quite naturally, but Wodehouse masterfully throws curveballs at the end of many chapters (in which a new progression causes Bertie to rethink his actions, and foreshadows imminent disasters). The constant need to address one issue (event, happenings) after another keeps the reader interested, and provides a smooth transition from chapter to chapter.

2. Bertie’s first-person perspective. Even though Bertie is not very bright or adept at negotiating his way around tricky solutions (at times, even compromising himself despite having the knowledge and preparations), he proves to be proficient with the English language (usage of complex sentences, and colourful metaphors applied on his counterparts). His slightly comedic disposition does make Bertie more likeable, and in fact more reliable as a narrator (because of how he calls things as he sees it), giving the reader a more comprehensive perspective of people and events. Bertie also functions as a coagulant: he is central to everything that is going on in Totleigh Towers, and eventually the onus and responsibility is on him to solve the numerous dilemmas.

3. The Code of the Woosters: “Never let a pal down. “‘Bertie, surely you aren’t going to be difficult about this? You’re much too good a sport. Didn’t you tell me once that the Code of the Woosters was “Never let a pal down”’ … She had found the talking point. People who appeal to the Code of the Woosters rarely fail to touch a chord in Bertram. My iron front began to crumble”.

4. Bertie’s adherence to the Code. Bertie’s adherence to the Code, particularly during his interactions with Dahlia and Stiffy Byng (not giving into Sir Watkyn Bassett’s blackmail of the former towards the end; and helping the latter facilitate her marriage proceedings), reflects not only his innocence, strict adherence to his values. Even though the decisions might not be the most pragmatic or beneficial for himself, his unwavering efforts to help the others are very much appreciated inside and outside of the text.

5. The cow creamer. If Bertie functions as a character coagulant, the cow creamer is the object of which the plot revolves around. Bertie gets his first run-in with Bassett and Roderick Spode at the antique shop, where Bertie was supposed to do a favour for Dahlia (which sets the ground for suspicions and assumptions between the three parties); Dahlia wants Bertie to retrieve the cow creamer during his residence at the Totleigh Towers for Uncle Tom Travers; and Stiffy has a plan to let Stinker Pinker impress Bassett, also with the use of the cow creamer. The value and importance placed on the cow creamer (to the extent that the owners are willing to trade individuals for it) may be a sarcastic remark on British high society, where disproportionate attention is given to such inanimate objects (which Bertie comments is not especially aesthetically pleasing).

6. Bertie’s tendencies to use animal-based imagery or descriptions (and his eloquence). “I don’t know if you have had the same experience, but a thing I have found in life is that from time to time, as you jog along, there occur moments which you are able to recognise immediately with the naked eye as high spots. Something tells you that they are going to remain etched, if etched is the word I want, for ever on the memory and will come back to you at intervals down the years, as you are dropping off to sleep, banishing that drowsy feeling and causing you to leap on the pillow like a gaffed salmon” and “Stiffy was one of those girls who enjoy in equal quantities the gall of an army mule and the calm insouciance of a fish on a slab of ice”.

7. Jeeves as the gentleman’s gentleman. Jeeves is Bertie’s protector and valet, and is the provider of different solutions or recommendations to help Bertie during his adventure at Totleigh Towers. Though not always present, his appearance signifies impending proposals or solutions for the existing problems. Jeeves presence also provides a form of assurance; that in spite of the multiple complications and unexpected engagements, Bertie would be able to facilitate the “recovery of the cow creamer” to Aunt Dahlia, as well as to ensure the marriage of the two couples.

8. Jeeves’s cultural influence. Given Jeeves’s intelligence and capabilities, the Internet search engine “Ask Jeeves” was named after him; and the term “Jeeves” – use generically for any useful or reliable person – is found in the Oxford English Dictionary.

9. Bertie’s description of Spode. “He was, as I had already been able to perceive, a breath-taking cove. About seven feet in height, and swathed in a plaid ulster which made him look about six feet across, he caught the eye and arrested it. It was as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla and had changed its mind at the last moment”.

10. Humour. The employment of humour adds to the light-heartedness of the text, and renders the tensions less pronounced (keeping with the general mood of the book). These include: Gussie, who has detailed Bassett and Spode’s many character failings and observable shortcomings in a notebook that becomes a source of trouble; the reason for cancelling the marriage between Gussie and Madeleine Bassett (over Gussie’s experimental newts in the tank), the inside facts about Eulalie, Gussie’s laughable antics, Bertie’s interactions and conversational exchanges with Spode and Bassett when he has the upper hand, as well as Gussie and Bertie’s descriptions of Spode and Bassett.

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About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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