Anatomy of a Book: Service With a Smile, by PG Wodehouse

file_20_30What with Lavender Briggs, Connie, the Duke and those beastly boys screaming and yelling beside the lake, life at Blandings Castle was becoming insupportable. (p.13)

Lord Emswoth wants for his home, Blandings Castle, to be peaceful and his pig, Empress, to be plump.

…Lord Emsworth himself, accompanied by Mr Schoonmaker’s daughter Myra, was on his way to the headquarters of Empress of Blandings, his pre-eminent sow, three times silver medallist in the Fat Pigs class at the Shropshire Agricultral Show. (p.9)

But, as eluded, all is not well. Harmony at Blandings one issue aside, ownership of the pig has come undertreat of thievery and blackmail.

‘…So I want you,’ said Lavender Briggs, ‘to steal Lord Emsworth’s pig.’ (p.83)

All this sounds very sinister, yet that is the separation of comedy and tragedy. The prospect of marriage for Myra, among others, creates lightness rather than foreboding. In essence, the knowledge that in Wodehouse’s world things are destined to end well allow for joy in the upheavals.

Among other notable observation, too numerous to mention here, the poet Dryden (1631-1700) once said that mighty things from mall beginnings grow, and all thinking men are agreed that in making this statement he called his shots correctly. (p.93)

And so a chance encounter with Lord Inkenham and a collection of events see events unfold and language used in the Wodehouse way to be of great enjoyment to the reader, rather than fear and dread and dullness.

Changing Status:

How can the daughter of an American millionaire marry a penniless London curate? How does the pig devote sustain themselves when they become pig without? Can those who are not nobly entitled ever be equal to those who such labelled?

High Stakes:

Happiness is at stake. The smiles of characters liked and the reader’s hopes that all in prospect to end well does end well are the stakes.

Page Turner:

There are all those romantic misunderstandings and dotty events, so upheaval and renewal are constant, plus much is made in the morning of character’s lives. Leaving text relating to evenings un-entered into.

Believable Characters:

This is the wonderful aspect to Wodehouse’s humour. It is the characters who are funny rather than the events. They are true to their actions, and the language and insights Wodehouse gives to their thinking on events is spot on: Except for a certain fullness of figure, the Duke of Dunstable and Empress of Blandings had little in common. There was no fusion between their souls. The next ten minutes accordingly saw nothing in the nature of an exchange of ideas. (p.75)

For a moment he debated within himself the advisability of dotting the speaker one on the boko, but decided against this. (p.82 – here Wodehouse uses language of the character, “dotting” and “boko”, within an explanation of the charterer’s thoughts)

Educate:

One might suggest that some knowledge of the English aristocracy is gleamed. Others might say that occasional poetic references can teach a thing or three. In all, these aid trust of the writer from the reader. There is perhaps little to learn, expect for how much to feed a show pig and the use of the Inkenham System.

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