Friday, February 16, 2007


Today was fun. Hardly did anything that involved actual school work, and I ate a bunch of candy type stuff. Emily gave everyone in the class half pound chocolate bars! Whee. MUCH OBLIGED, JEEVES “I've seldom had a sharper attack of euphoria. I feel full to the brim of Vitamin B. Mind you, I don't know how long it will last. Too often it is when one feels fizziest that the storm clouds begin doing their stuff,” Bertie asserts at the beginning of P.G. Wodehouse’s Much Obliged, Jeeves. This classic Wodehouse book is one of many chronicling the escapades of Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves, written towards the end his career. The story takes place in timeless, idealized England before World War Two. I enjoyed reading this book. In my opinion, however, it was not quite as witty and sharp as the other Wodehouse short stories and novels I’ve read. The story starts with Bertie in bed, happy, eating breakfast. He receives a telephone call from his aunt Dahlia asking him if he’d come down to Brinkley Court; his friend Ginger Winship is running in the House of Commons by-election and wants Bertie to come to canvass on his behalf. Bertie happily agrees after being reassured that he won’t be required to kiss any babies. He runs into Ginger while eating lunch and learns that it is his fiancĂ© who wants him to run, and that she is none other than the strict Florence Craye, who Bertie was himself engaged to. Ginger loves her dearly, but Florence is so controlling and demanding that, Ginger believes, if he loses the election, their engagement would be over. Upon arriving at Brinkley, Bertie encounters one of his old valets, Bingley, who Bertie detests, and with good reason - once, drunk, he had burned down the cottage Bertie was staying in and threatened to shoot him, mistaking him as a burglar. Bertie now learns that Bingley has stolen the Club Book, which belongs to the Junior Ganymede, a club for valets and butlers, which contains personal and often times embarrassing information about their employers for other members to review and consider prior to taking a job with one of them. He threatens to sell the entry on Ginger’s past escapades to the newspapers, thus ensuring his loss of the election. Through some ingenious scheming, Jeeves devises a plan to steal the book back, which he promptly carries out. When Bertie informs Ginger that the book is safe, he, surprisingly, is not happy. He tells Bertie that he has realized that he does not want to marry Florence; he has fallen in love with his secretary Magnolia. At the candidate debate, after his opponent has finished speaking, Ginger gets up to speak and, at the suggestion of Jeeves, states that he has sided with his opponent and that everyone should vote for her. This, of course, outrages Florence, and she promptly ends their engagement, much to the delight of Ginger. He proposes to Magnolia, and Bertie, his duties successfully carried out with much help from Jeeves, is elated to hear that Jeeves has also destroyed the pages in the Junior Ganymede Club Book which had previously been a constant threat to Bertie’s reputation. After all, compared to the other employers’ paragraph or two entries, his was by far the largest - nineteen pages long. One of the things I love about Wodehouse’s Jeeves books is the point of view from which they are told. Bertie’s interesting and unique way of describing the events of his life are endlessly entertaining. He has a unique way of stating the mundane. “I halted. There was a song I used to sing in my bath at one time, the refrain or burthen of which began with the words 'I stopped and I looked and I listened', and this was what I did now, except for the looking.” He goes out of his way to describe in detail things that, in a normal story, would only be briefly mentioned. When his friend Madeline gets a gnat in her eye, Bertie stops the narration to expound upon the right and wrong ways of taking things out of peoples’ eyes. “I remember going into the technique of operations of this kind with Gussie Fink-Nottle at Totleigh when he had removed a fly from the eye of Stephanie Byng, now the Reverend Mrs. Stinker Pinker, and we were in agreement that success could be achieved only by placing a hand under the patient's chin in order to steady the head. Omit this preliminary and your efforts are bootless. My first move, accordingly, was to do so.” The narration, in my opinion, is one of the things that makes this and other Wodehouse books so enthralling. One thing, however, that I thought was slightly annoying was that, in this book in particular, some phrases or jokes are repeated a little too frequently. Seven times, after quoting or alluding to something from the Bible, Bertie boisterously mentions how he won the Scripture Knowledge Prize when he was in school. “I have often thought that the deaf adder I read about when I won my Scripture Knowledge prize would have got the message right enough if the aged relative had been one of the charmers.” “I couldn't have become stiffer if I had been Lot's wife, whose painful story I had had to read up when I won that Scripture Knowledge prize.” Jeeves also frequently quotes famous authors or poets, and Bertie guesses at the origin of the quote, almost always being wrong. “’Shakespeare?’ ‘Burke, sir.’” or “’Shakespeare?’ ‘No, sir. The American author Oliver Wendell Holmes.’” Again, Bertie asks, “‘Shakespeare?’ ‘Yes sir, his Merchant of Venice.’ I left him then, pleased at having got one right for a change…” This book was one of P.G. Wodehouse’s last, and I think that that somewhat accounts for the not-as-sharp wit and humor that is so predominant and wonderful in his earlier works. Another thing that I noticed is that some of the minor characters are sort of distant and not very well described or deeply involved in the plot. Florence only is there to scold and order Ginger around. L. P. Runkle only serves as a means to money for Tuppy Glossop’s engagement. Tuppy is also hardly mentioned at all in the story and is never even actually around; his money problems only exist to exasperate Bertie. It seems as if some storylines were added simply to put Bertie even more, as he would say “in the soup”, and to make the plot appear more complicated and interesting, even though they have little to do with what actually happens in the story. Even Jeeves himself only seems to act as Bertie’s quote checker and hardly enters into the plot at all other than to steal the book from Bingley and, at the end of the book, to get Bertie out of his troubles with one big, masterfully crafted plan. One of the themes that runs through many Wodehouse stories, including this one, is the idea of engagements. They are seen as flippant things that are often and quickly broken off and started up again. Very briefly, until she discovers his criminal behaviors, Bertie becomes engaged to Madeline. He also refers to the fact that he too was once engaged to Florence. About it he says, “It didn't last long, because she gave me the heave-ho and got betrothed to a fellow called Gorringe who wrote vers libre, but while it lasted I felt like one of those Ethiopian slaves Cleopatra used to push around, and I chafed more than somewhat.” Marriage, to Bertie, is seen as something that would tie him down and lead only to misery. His aunt Dahlia says, “‘I've lost count of the number of times you've been definitely headed for the altar with apparently no hope of evading the firing squad, and every time something has happened which enabled you to wriggle out of it. It's uncanny.’” Engagement should be looked upon as a final thing, not something that can easily be blown off and then restarted again. Another kind of theme I noticed in the book is that of Bertie getting dragged into other people’s problems. He is asked to help canvass for Ginger’s election, to help get money from L. P. Runkle for his friend Tuppy, and to keep a silver dish hidden that his aunt Dahila has stolen. Bertie, at first, never really wants to help, but always does because he is a Wooster and chivalry comes natural to them. Most of the trouble he gets pulled into isn’t really even his problems, but he can’t help but do everything that is asked of him by anyone; he is a people pleaser. The book seems to imply that Bertie wouldn’t have any problems if he just kept out of other peoples’ affairs, and that it would be smarter of him to do so. We are supposed to be kind to others, and, if we can, assist them in their times of trouble. In conclusion, although this book does not meet the Wodehouse standard of his earlier works, I’d still recommend it to other people to read; it’s extremely entertaining. The lessons in it shouldn’t be taken seriously; I don’t think they were written to be. This book is amusing and not supposed to be taken seriously. Its comedic narration is delightful to read, and I think that anyone who does will be surprised at how funny Bertie’s disastrous life and downfalls can be, until he is saved by Jeeves’ massive brain at the very last minute. As Bertie instructs him, “Keep eating lots of fish.” In Bertie’s mind, this must be the source of his brain power. THE END.

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