Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

P. G. Wodehouse (pronounced “Wood-house”) wrote several series of stories around characters including Mr. Mulliner, Ukridge, Lord Emsworth, Psmith, and the best known of them all, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. All are set in the same general milieu of well-off English families with comfortable lives, country houses, and gentlemen’s personal gentlemen. The lead characters often drink enough alcohol to float a boat, yet suffer none of the ravages of alcoholism, other than the occasional hangover. Undisturbed by any woes of poverty, murder, or similar real-world concerns, these characters need concern themselves with nothing other than the situation at hand.

In the Mulliner series, the vast and varied multitude of Mr. Mulliner’s relatives allows Wodehouse to spin completely different tales in different settings, with different characters. At the same time, the narrating gentleman and his Angler’s Roost public house give the reader a comforting constancy. Whether it is nephew Augustine the curate, cousin Montrose the film director, or nephew Archibald, one can feel that the forthcoming story has already proven itself interesting.

“The Reverent Wooing of Archibald” is typical of Wodehouse stories. The author, who continued to produce stories and novels until his death at age ninety-four, spent that entire career honing his stereotypical parodies of the overly rich elite. Two of his most common themes are a gentleman’s escape from...

(The entire section is 419 words.)