Prof. Mohamed Shareef's Reviews > The Inimitable Jeeves

The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
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Oct 21, 10

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Paper on P.G.Wodehouse
“A Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman..”



by…….T.P.Mohamed Shareef



The popularity of Wodehouse characters is widely recognized as names like Jeeves are usually used without quotation marks. Jeeves, the masterpiece of Wodehouse, is most delightful in his role as “a gentleman’s personal gentleman”. Wodehouse would have claimed no originality for Jeeves as a broader type. What Wodehouse could have claimed as his own patent with Jeeves was the successful use of him as a recurrent, charming, funny and credible agent in plot-making.

The achievement of P.G.Wodehouse is too formidable to be ignored, but his place in the literary history of the 20th century is not easy to evaluate. The approach of reviewers usually has been to accept the Wodehouse books as products of pure fantasy. ‘I cannot criticize, I can only laugh’, wrote one reviewer.

Wodehouse once said, ‘I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is mine, making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring life altogether; the other is going right deep down into life and not caring a damn…’. Wodehouse didn’t regret in taking up the first way, for thousands of readers all over the world continue to approve his unmatched ability to stir ceaseless mirth.

The Wodehouse farce plots are highly complicated and Wodehouse took immense trouble in handling them ingeniously. Other good authors, having achieved plots one stage less involved, would feel perfectly justified in their artistic consciences to allow their denouncements to start through a coincidence or act of God. Wodehouse, in the Jeeves stories, used Jeeves as an extra dimension, a godlike prime mover, a master brain who is found to have engineered the apparent coincidence or coincidences.

There are elements of similarity between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and P. G. Wodehouse in the formulation of the stories. The adventures of Jeeves, as recorded by Bertie Wooster and the adventures of Sherlock Holmes as recorded by Dr.Watson have close similarity in patterns and rhythms. Sherlock Holmes and Jeeves are the great brains, while Dr. Watson and Bertie Wooster are the awed companion-narrators bungling things if they try to solve the problems themselves. Also, the high incidence of crime in the Wodehouse farces, especially the Bertie/Jeeves ones, may be an echo of the Sherlock Holmes stories. As a result, literary appreciation for the most part takes the form of articles in which Wodehouse characters are treated without reference to their creator, as in the body of criticism which has grown up around Sherlock Holmes, which depends on the convention that nobody ever mentions Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Jeeves, in most stories, is the rim of the wheel and the hub, the plotter and the plot. Bertie sometimes insists on handling problems in his own way. Jeeves, in his background planning, cannot only allow for Bertie’s mistakes; he can estimate their extent in advance and make them a positive part of the great web he himself is spinning. And he is so confident of his success that he will often take his reward before his success has actually happened and before his reward has been offered.

It is generally agreed that however William Shakespeare’s mind might soar into the fanciful for the supernatural, he continued to keep his feet firmly on the ground. Similarly, whatever the local conditions in the Wodehouse country, it is not the realm of nonsense absolute. All comedy refines, selects and exaggerates. It is possible to conclude too hastily that in Wodehouse the process is carried so far that contact is lost with the world of experience, its persons, its motives, its dilemmas and its appetites. The characters will be found to exist well within the permissible limits of artistic presentation.

Wodehouse characters arouse laughter not because they are outside the human family but because they are so plainly within it. Wodehouse’s country, like any other country, has its own fancies and conventions and it has its own idiom. But the realm to
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