Time to revisit another book favorite. W is for Wodehouse or his most famous creation Wooster 🙂
If ever a person wrote more funny prose than Wodehouse, I am yet to read them. Looking back, it seems really amazing that a guy who lived through two world wars, he was interned during the second world war (and got into a lot of trouble because of some faux pas he committed, but that is another story) still managed to retain his sense of humor and his amazing ability to write about life in such a unique way.
These days, since I am exploring so much of the literature I read as a child, through the critical lens of the values I hold today, I thought of subjecting Wodehouse to the same critical examination. I thought he was bound to fail. I mean his books are full of politically incorrect prose, specially against women.
But maybe because I am so besotted with him, I somehow wanted him to pass this test. And you know what, when I read him now, I feel that though he is writing about the typical ‘old boy’s club’ making disparging comments in general about women, actually the very ridiculousness of the codes of the old boys clubs and the views they have of women make them the subject of mirth, rather than the women themselves. Bertie may say a hundred things about Florence Craye or Madeline Basset. But what he says about them, says more about him than anything else. We laugh not at Florence, but at Bertie’s fear of Florence. We dont want Bertie to marry any of them, and though we say it is because we dont want poor Bertie to be saddled with them, at some level we don’t want any of those women to be saddled with Bertie either.
These days, I am increasingly understanding that it is these informal groups like the ‘old boys club’ which continue to normalize many negative attitudes against women. So logically I really should be quite critical of Wodehouse. But frankly, when I read him from this perspective, I was reminded of that shape shifting creature from Harry Potter, who could only be defeated by laughter. I guess that was Wodehouse’s strategy.
Ok, no, probably not a conscious one. I mean, I cant really get away with making Wodehouse an original feminist out to destroy institutions which shackle women. But what the hell. Whether he meant it or not, I think he can do it quite effectively.