We’ll be meeting at 12:30 pm Sunday, May 13, at Pints Pub to discuss Jeeves in the Offing (released in the U.S. as How Right You Are, Jeeves). As the proponent of this late offering (published in 1960) by P.G. Wodehouse, member Larry has contributed the discussion notes:
Twelve Woosterisms in Seventeen Lines
The following observations freely mixes my own with those equally freely stolen from the book Plum Sauce: A Wodehouse Companion by Richard Usborne.
For our discussion of “Jeeves in the Offing” I thought we might focus on what Mr. Usborne calls “Woosterisms”. Note Bertie as a narrator. Is he “literary”? From Bertie’s point of view, he has only written a single item for publication; “What the Well-dressed Man is Wearing” published in his Aunt Dahlia’s magazine Milady’s Boudoir. And yet, from our view, he has written some ten novels and fifty odd short stories under Wodehouse’s name that we all love and admire. This is the Wooster dichotomy.
“As a storyteller Bertie is his own central character, and he has to narrate strictly from the first-person point of view, often writing scenes in such a way that Bertie-the-character must not realize must not realize the purport of what Bertie-the-narrator is narrating, but his readers must.” – Richard Usborne
While he does not identify it as such, I would call the type of narrating in which the reader is somehow ahead of the first person narrator, a “Woosterism”. Can you identify examples and such from our current Wooster and Jeeves novel?
Here is another example of three paragraphs of narration by Bertie. Read through it first just for fun.
It is pretty generally recognized in the circles in which he moves that Bertram Wooster is not a man who lightly throws in the towel and admits defeat. Beneath the thingummies of what-d’ya-call it his head, wind and weather permitting, is as a rule bloody but not bowed, and if the slings and arrows od outrageous fortune want to crush his proud spirit, they have to pull their socks up and make a special effort.
Nevertheless, I must confess that when, already weakened by having to come down to breakfast, I beheld the spectacle which I have described, I definitely quailed. The heart sank, and, as had happened in the case of Spode, everything went black. Through a murky mist I seem to be watching a Negro butler presenting an inky salver to a Ma Trotter who looked like an end man in a minstrel show.
The floor heaved beneath my feet as if an earthquake had set in with unusual severity. My eye, in fine frenzy rolling, met Aunt Dahlia’s, and I saw hers was rolling, too.
Now here are the “Woosterisms” that Usborne identifies in the above three paragraphs. See if you can locate them and underline them in preparation for our discussion. Try to note some other examples of them in our assigned Wodehouse/Birdie novel for this month.
- A general clash of jargons and phrases.
- The Bertie-beside-himself third person singular
- Botched quotations (Henley and Shakespeare in this case. Counts as two #11.)
- The interposition of nautical phrases.
- Extraneous boxing imagery
- Good Old Wodehouse elaboration of the “all went black”cliché.
- Good Old Wodehouse elaboration of the “earthquake (more often Judgement Day) had set in with unusual severity.”
- The medical “The heart sank” rather than “My heart sank”.
- The medical use of “weakened” just to emphasize his supposed sacrifice of breakfasting downstairs for once.
- The enforced use of “single eye” which makes some sense in his Shakespeare quote, but which seems ‘foolishly Cyclopean’ when transferred to Aunt Dahlia in the second case (Counts as two #12.)