In P. G. Wodehouse's "The Custody of the Pumpkin," chapter 1 in Blandings Castle, how can the character of Freddie be admired by the readers?
The way Wodehouse constructs a narrative in which the Hon. Freddie Threepwood can be admired is through:
- general description
- metaphor and simile
- juxtaposition of terms and images
- Freddie's speech patterns
The morning sunshine descended like an amber shower-bath on Blandings Castle, lighting up with a heartening glow its ivied walls, its rolling parks, its gardens ... [and] the white flannels of the Hon. Freddie Threepwood, Lord Emsworth's second son, hurrying across the water-meadows.
We'll talk about a couple of these. To start with, as the above chapter opening description illustrates, Freddie is associated with a beautiful, lightsome scenic image: the sun shinning with a benevolent amber glow upon beauteous aspects of the English countryside, including Freddie. By this association of Freddie's general description with sunny imagery, Wodehouse has fashioned Freddie to be as lovable and admirable as "rolling parks" and "gardens": who does not admire garden-filled rolling parks and, by association, who will not admire Freddie in his summertime white flannels?
Wodehouse's vocabulary is another technique that works to build the feeling of admiration for (some might say "sympathy with") Freddie. To start with, Freddie's names--Freddie, Treepwood, Emsworth--are lighthearted names and even frivolously amusing ("Treepwood"?). In addition, Wodehouse's general vocabulary in association with the general description of Freddie is lighthearted and amusing:
- flannels; associated with the good, clean sport of cricket
- shinning: "white and shinning"
- tripped along
- Theocritan shepherd: Theocritan was a Greek pastoral and mythological poet
- mischief, mooned (as opposed to "trouble" or "danger" and "sulked" or "stormed")
- fold, warm embrace
All such vocabulary choices associate Freddie with lightsome elements that we admire or--at worst--that we see as innocently diverting, like "mischief" versus "danger."
One of the more interesting techniques Wodehouse uses, and one that gives textual complexity and depth to an otherwise light narrative, is to juxtapose terms and images or characterization and images in an interesting way. An illustration of the juxtaposition of terms and images is Emsworth's encounter with Freddie after the "folding in warm embrace" incident. Some terms used here are "sour and hostile eye" "culprit" and "villain." The imagery juxtaposed is that of a "roseate trance" of sunny mood and happy gambolling.
An illustration of characterization and imagery is the juxtaposition of Freddie of the amber sunlight with Hamlet, which strikes a note of deep amusement (an emotional, humorous "As if!"), especially as all British schoolchildren were then reared on Shakespeare (even if not "grade appropriate"!). Another is Emsworth's characterization as a prowling leopard juxtaposed with Freddie whistling in white flannels.
Illustrations of metaphor and simile are Freddie with "the appearance of a beaming sheep" and the comparison of Freddie to Theocritan. An illustration of Freddie's speech patterns, rendering him harmlessly amusing instead of unsympathetically--or unadmirably--hostile is his first conversation with Lord Emsworth:
'Oh! ... Oh, ah! ...Oh, ah, yes! I've been meaning to tell you about that, guv'nor [English slang for an authority figure]. ... All most correct-o! Nothing fishy ....'
When all these aspects of Wodehouse's technique are combined with the image of Freddie's "appearance of a beaming sheep," we have to admire Freddie, as opposed to dislike, disapprove of and reject him.
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