The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The plot of Full Moon, filled with Wodehouse’s trademark schemes and counterschemes, completely overshadows its cast of stock characters. The Blandings estate had been used serially in at least twelve previous novels and many more after that. Consequently, Wodehouse wrote Full Moon for a group of readers who needed no introduction to the propensities and predicaments of its protagonists and antagonists. In this, he indeed seems to have been the precursor of the “situation comedy,” creating a hunger in the public for the next round of adventures for a familiar crew of eccentrics, ne’er-dowells, and young lovers.

Wodehouse populates Full Moon with distinctively snobbish, slightly anti-intellectual characters often laden with colorful, preposterous names. “Freddie Threepwood” and “Tipton Plimsoll” exemplify his penchant for calling attention to the pretentiousness of the ladies and gentlemen of high society. Their improbable surnames accentuate the frequent silliness of the social situations into which Wodehouse places them; they invite the reader to treat their actually minor travails as major trials with mock-heroic seriousness.

The fulcrum of the story is, nevertheless, the endearing Lord Emsworth, an increasingly senile country gentleman—a widower who has nothing better to do with his time than observe the tribulations of his fellow gentry and raise prize pigs and pumpkins. He is utterly self-effacing, bossed about by his sisters and their spouses and offspring, yet always somehow in the middle of an adventure. Wodehouse never patronizes this elderly gentleman, however, and is clearly charmed by his aloof perspective above the commotion of relatives all about him.

As gentle as Wodehouse is in mocking the foibles of the aristocracy, he is merciless in his parodying of obstinate American businessmen and their cocky sons “on tour” of the British Isles. American “efficiency” and paranoia are satirically focused in Tipton Plimsoll, the stereotypical brash American, fond of tweaking the social etiquette of British society while pursuing what he wants at all cost.

In the end, with few exceptions, Wodehouse’s characters manifest no depth and reflect no serious development. The Lord Emsworth of a 1910 novel has neither aged nor matured by his appearance in a 1950 novel. They serve as counters and placeholders amid the comic situations and predicaments created by Wodehousian wit.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Clarence Threepwood

Clarence Threepwood, the ninth earl of Emsworth, the vague and woolly-headed master of Blandings Castle, somewhere in Shropshire. In the opinion of his younger brother Galahad—who has had ample opportunity to form a reasoned judgment—his IQ is about thirty points lower than that of a not-too-agile-minded jellyfish. He is ruled by whichever of his ten sisters happens to be in residence at Blandings, in this case Lady Hermione Wedge. The widowed father of Freddie Threepwood, he is devoted chiefly to his black Berkshire sow, the Empress of Blandings.

The Hon. Galahad Threepwood

The Hon. Galahad Threepwood, the fifty-six-year-old younger brother of Clarence. He has headquarters in Duke Street, St. James, and subsists on a younger son’s allowance from the Threepwood estate. He is one of the great London figures at whom the world of the stage, the race course, and the rowdier restaurants point with pride. Although strongly disapproved of by his sisters, he is the only genuinely distinguished member of his family. He masterminds a scheme to put the Empress of Blandings in Veronica’s bedroom as a means of breaking down Tipton Plimsoll’s shy reserve and concocts a variety of schemes to keep Bill Lister at Blandings until his union with Prue Garland is accepted by her family.

William Galahad “Blister” Lister

William Galahad “Blister” Lister, the godson of Galahad Threepwood, son of a sporting journalist and a Strong Woman on the music-hall stage. A painter of limited talent, he has just inherited from his uncle a pub on the outskirts of Oxford. His broad nose, prominent ears, prognathous chin, and heavily muscled body give him the general aspect of a kindly gorilla. He is in love with Prudence Garland, but his suit is determinedly opposed by her mother, Lady Dora, and by Lady Hermione Wedge. With the aid of Galahad, he appears at Blandings in various aliases, two of them artists...

(The entire section is 812 words.)