The Performing Flea

‘Summer Moonshine’ was the first book by P.G Wodehouse that I ever read. Since then I have been hooked on to his quintessentially English comedic style. The eccentric, foolish, ‘mentally negligible’ characters with peculiar idiosncrasies that try to extricate themselves from tight situations with their half witted schemes.

There are those rich, powerful but dimwitted peers of the Empire mingling with the devious and manipulative sisters, swashbuckling younger sons. Lovers whose fate is placed in the hands of those who have power to help or to impede their marriage and make their lives miserable. But then there are those for whom friends are often a source of trouble than comfort. And those who have to rise to the situation and help a friend or a cousin or a an aunt get what they want , be it a lover, or a silver cow creamer.

A gaggle of aunts who want their nephews to perform dangerous tasks for them.There is always a burly, son of the soil, policeman who has the terrier biting at the ankles and whose helmet is being pinched. There is a Justice of the Peace who has to be pleased and satisfied and woken up at unearthly hours to settle disputes. Giving a false name, appearing as someone else are recurrent themes.

I have especially loved the fact that Jeeves and Baxter are much more capable than their ” mentally negligible” and “potty” masters. I love the fact that the beds in Wodehouse’s are not for appeasing sexual urges, but for hiding from ‘amateur dictators’ . The girls are sporty and often encourage their mates to perform ‘dangerous deeds’.And there are girls like Honoria Glossop, the daughter of the noted ‘nerve specialist’ (the loony doctor as Bertie ‘wisely’ puts it) , who have a laugh like a train passing through a tunnel. But then there are also girls like Madeline Basset , the girl who thinks that the stars are “God’s daisy chain,” and that, as Bertie puts it, a “wee bit star” is born each time a fairy sheds a tear. “She was a pretty enough girl in a droopy, blonde, saucer-eyed way, but not the sort of breath-taker that takes the breath.”

The convoluted plots are complicated further by incessant engagements, betting and bizarre demands. A man may be unable to declare his love and become engaged to the love of his life (the lode star of his life) due to some impediment. And often unwillingly he becomes engaged to someone he doesn’t love and needs to find some way out of the engagement. Someone always manipulates the outcome of a bet.

I think that the genius of Wodehouse lies in the fact that he never wavers from the ‘psychology of the individual’. That is probably why his characters are so rich.Also this is why he can make the plots so complicated and tangled.
And out of this tangled web that the characters weave for themselves an invariably happy ending emerges.


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