Last week I wrote about the ways that P.G. Woodhouse uses overstatement and understatement for comic effect in his Jeeves and Wooster books (and particularly in Right Ho, Jeeves). The principle at work, I suggested, was a distortion of scale and proportion.
To speak of small things as if they were big and big things as if they were small is a tried-and-true technique for writing funny. Last week I focused on the ways this principle gets worked out at the sentence level. This week I want to look at some ways Wodehouse distorts scale and proportion at the larger story level, and especially in his characters’ motivations. Bertie Wooster and co. tend to miss the point by treating small issues as if they were big and big issues as if they were small. Then wackiness ensues.
A recurring theme in Right Ho, Jeeves is Bertie Wooster’s conflict with his valet Jeeves over a white mess jacket with brass buttons. Bertie likes it (he picked it up while on holiday in the South of France), but Jeeves, the soul of propriety, considers it inappropriate for polite English society.Read More