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In "The Custody Of The Pumpkin" how does the author expresses the class system as being...

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lordscrud | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 23, 2012 at 12:40 AM via web

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In "The Custody Of The Pumpkin" how does the author expresses the class system as being punishing and/or prejudicial?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:39 AM (Answer #1)

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In P.G. Wodehouse's "The Custody of the Pumpkin", Lord Emsworth and his son Freddie represent the aristocratic society of post World War I England. This social stratum is interesting because it was made mostly of old, titled English families who strongly wished that the order of things remained as it did before the war: Aristocrats would have all the courtesies and privileges, while the "others" would have to work for what they want. 

Lord Emsworth, then, would be the head of one of those still-titled and still wealthy old families, whose power was becoming overpowered by a growing and very needed middle and upper-middle classes; these groups were made mostly of people who worked for a living, built enterprises, and literally changed England forever.

This being said: Notice how "The Custody of the Pumpkin" shows exactly this in the way in which Wodehouse juxtaposes his characters. Lord Emsworth has money and prestige, but lacks intelligence and talent; as a result, he is completely dependent on his gardener, Angus, to do what he loves most, which is to tend to his award-winning colossal pumpkin.

His son, Freddie, also rich, is lazy and has no direction in life. As a result, he is dependent on Mr. Donaldson's offer of a position to get his father's blessing after having hastily married the gardener's "sort of cousin", Aggie.

In these two cases, Lord Emsworth was prejudicial because, even though his son, Freddie, is a good-for-nothing, Lord Emsworth still could not consent that he married a lesser-class woman like Aggie, especially, when Aggie is related to his gardener. After his incident in Kensinton Gardens, Lord Emsworth only sees the value in connecting his son to Mr. Donaldson when he realizes that only this man can help his good-for-nothing son turn into something and leave Lord Emsworth alone for good.

However, Wodehouse also shows that the class system is also punishing. This is because this system prevents people from exercising their freedoms; why would there be a problem with Freddie and Aggie getting married if it had not been because of the class system? Why would Lord Emsworth have so much time in his hands with nothing to do (while the rest of the world is hard at work), if it had not been due to the particular class system in which he was raised?

Therefore, the class system can be both punishing and prejudicial in a society in which family names and their history hold a tremendous value. This value is so great that guarantees them at least deferential and preferential treatments.

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