How is the story, "The Custody of the Pumpkin" by P.G.Wodehouse a comment on upper class British society?

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

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P.G. Wodehouse's hilarious satire, "The Custody of the Pumpkin" is the story of the honorable Earl of Blandings, Lord Emsworth: a man whose great rank and position in the highest class of society is juxtaposed to his lack of intelligence and common sense.

The qualities of ignorance and idleness are the keypoints upon which Wodehouse focuses in order to make the story a parody of the lives of the upper-class British society members. Lord Emsworth represents the idle upper-classes who live off their family names and fortunes, who attend Oxford or Cambridge merely to say that they have gone there, and who later in life become the epicenter of a shallow social circle of estate balls, hunting, or many other forms of mindless entertainment. Like his peers, Lord Emsworth is clearly a man with lots of money and very little ideas about what to do with it.

Parly due to his idle and unintelligent condition, Lord Emsworth employs endless hours into the tending of his beloved award-winning and massive pumpkin whom he named "The Hope of Blandings"; a lead competitor at the Shrewsbury plant show. Emsworth's equally worthless son, Freddie, has been around the house flirting with the daughter of Emsworth's top gardener, McAllister, thus infuriating the latter to the point of quitting his job at Blandings.

What happens fnext is pure mockery and satire towards the upper classes. Lord Emsworth wanders around Kensinton Gardens in a blur not knowing what to do about his contest, nor his son. Lucky for him, McAllister stumbles upon Lord Emsworth, who is nearly taken to jail for his wandering and for pulling flowers at the park. After the intervention of a Mister Donaldson, the story comes to a nice resolution: Donaldson offers to give Freddie a a job far away from his father, McAllister's daughter marries Freddie, and McAllister gets his job back with double pay. In the end, they end up winning the contest again. 

The whole plot is designed to make Lord Emsworth and his son completely devoid of reason or imagination. Compared to the common folk, such as McAllister and Mr. Donaldson, the aristocrats stand out for their silliness in behavior and thought. 

Also, notice how the upper-class men seem unable to do anything without the help of the common man. Lord Emsworth cannot raise his pumpkin without the intervention of his gardener, and Freddie does not seem to be able to make any useful form of employment until Mr. Donaldson shows up.

Therefore, the story presents the lifestyles of the rich in Post World War I England in all of its glamour and its stubborn adherence to old traditions; all this while the world outside the walls of Blandings are undergoing major social changes that, eventually, would affect the aristocrats, as a whole. McAllister and Donaldson represent that world outside the Blandings estate which can survive on their own, and is strong enough for change. Lord Emsworth and his son, contrastingly, represent the weakening upper classes who are slowly but surely deteriorating precisely for their lack of social survival mechanisms.



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