Explore how Wodehouse makes Lord Emsworth a memorable character.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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P.G. Wodehouse is quite well-known for his portrayal of eccentric, snobbish and  socially-parasitic aristocrats in his different chronicles. An example of the most well-known chronicles would be Jeeves and Wooster, for example, where Bertie Wooster would be represented as this type of upper class man with nothing to do with his time.

Lord Emsworth is the main character of the Blandings Castle Books, which are based out of the fictional Emsworth estate, of which he is supposed to be the head.  Lord Emsworth is a great sample of a "Wodehouse type", which are characters that bear the unique and funny characteristics that make them so awkward.

A typical Wodehouse character would have a very unique or ridiculous name, imitating the very long and historical names of the old English powerhouses. In the case of Emsworth, his complete name is Clarence Threepwood, Earl of Emsworth, Viscount Bosham. Notice the employment of multiple consonants in the name for the purpose of accentuating an imperious name the way that the aristocrats would have done back in Wodehouse's society.

Another characteristic of a "Wodehouse type" would consist on having a social disability of some sort. Some Wodehouse characters would be obsessed with newts, others would be rowdy and clueless, or quite feeble. Lord Emsworth belongs to this latter category: Despite of his tremendous title, he is still a diminutive member of his powerful family, as he is constantly bullied by his family, particularly, his sisters. In typical Wodehouse fashion, Emsworth is also obsessed with a menial task which demonstrates the huge amount of time the aristocracy would waste in a typical day: Emsworth is fixated with creating pottery pieces in his castle, with gardening roses, his award-winning pumpkin and with his beloved pig, Empress of the Blandings.

Although Emsworth is an older man, he does not possess any of the attributes of age and maturity: He is absent-minded, prone to long sleep, and basically clueless about what goes around him with the exception with the very specific things that he loves which are his animals and his flowers. His son Freddie, another Wodehouse type, is a loafer, lazy, and Emsworth tries hard to marry him off to anybody, just about.

Yet the most important attribute of an Wodehouse character is their use of language. Wodehouse mixes the younger generation's Eton jargon with aristocratic snobbish words and creates a unique language for his characters. Lord Emsworth, who is an easy-going but conservative peer is characterized for his kind speech to others and his consistent use of the phrase "dash it" as his way to curse when he is mad.

The key to understanding Wodehouse is comparing his characters to typical, everyday upper-class men of the earlier generations. Wodehouse extracts the essence of the silliness and emptiness of aristocratic heritage and adds to it sarcasm and ridiculous situations that are what make Emsworth and his peers so funny and easy to like.


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