How does P. G. Wodehouse mock the system of social class of Britain in his short story "The Custody of the Pumpkin"?
In his short story “The Custody of the Pumpkin,” P. G. Wodehouse mocks the system of social class in Britain almost immediately. Examples simply from the first few pages of the story include the following:
- Lord Emsworth can’t see anything but blackness when he looks into his newly-purchased telescope; it is his butler who notices that the telescope’s cap is still attached. The butler, although inferior in social status, is clearly the more observant – and perhaps also the more intelligent – of the two.
- Lord Emsworth, having ordered the butler to fetch his lordship’s hat, has the butler put the hat on his lordship’s head – as if he is too grand to do so himself, or perhaps too used to having others do even the most basic chores for him.
- Lord Emsworth’s attitude toward his younger son, Freddie, is compared unfavorably to the attitude of a codfish toward its numerous spawn – a comparison that inevitably makes Lord Emsworth seems an object of humor.
- Freddie, although from an aristocratic family, seems incapable of managing his money effectively; he gets into debt whenever he goes to London.
- Freddie in general is presented as shallow and fatuous. His life of leisure and privilege has given him little incentive to develop very much as a mature human being.
- Freddie’s way of speaking seems fashionably colloquial; he does not sound like a serious person, and this lack of seriousness is again probably attributable to the all-too-comfortable life he has led because of his lofty status in the system of British social classes.
- Lord Emsworth’s anger when he learns that his son has become engaged to a commoner suggests the extent to which money, rather than love, is most important to his view of marriage.
- Lord Emsworth’s gardener, though described as a man who seems both honest and intelligent, is Emsworth’s social inferior simply because Emsworth has more money and a longer pedigree:
Honesty Angus McAllister’s face had in full measure, and also intelligence . . .
Emsworth's son seems neither especially honest nor especially intelligent, but he outranks Angus McAllister in social class.