Summer Class, Day 6: The Last Bit of Wodehouse

Previously: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Days left: 13

Sorry this is a day late! I felt lazy yesterday.

In yesterday’s class we talked yet again about Wodehouse and his books. It’s surprising how much you can glean from a humor book, but apparently my prof is all into Wodehouse and that’s why we spent three days on him instead of what was supposed to be two. So!

Wodehouse and women. The women in his life were the ones that helped him stay on the path of not being a ninny, and so you’d think he’d be treating them favorably in his books. Well…he doesn’t really. Not that he’s mean about women– Wodehouse is never mean, or cruel, or any of those things– but his books are a decidedly male-driven world. By that I mean the focus of his books are always on the male characters, with the female characters regulated to secondary roles.

Honoria Glossop, she of the eyes like a sergeant-major

And those female characters are almost always the same type, just as his males characters are the same type. Women in Wodehouse’s books are overbearing, domineering, manipulative, and always on the the lookout for a man they can marry and then somehow improve. Take just about every Jeeves and Wooster book, for instance: every single woman Bertie runs into wants to change him supposedly for the better, although it’s always in a way that is contrary to Bertie’s basic character.

Manipulative shrews on the hunt for a malleable husband isn’t the most flattering of ways to portray women, and unfortunately I don’t think Wodehouse ever breaks away from that stereotype. His men are also plagued with “boys club” stereotypes, namely that they always want to be “free” and unburdened by wives trying to force them to be more responsible.

What men do in clubs

My prof had an interesting theory on why Wodehouse has his characters be that way: because Wodehouse went to public schools (private schools in US vernacular) and a single-sex environment fosters group behavior like what’s found in Wodehouse’s books. Think of the Drones Club. Think of any gentlemen’s club where men can “get away from the wife” for a few hours a day (NOT the strip club type, btw. The type where old dudes sit around drinking bourbon and reading newspapers). All those men went to public schools, and my prof says that because they spent so much time in a same-sex environment growing up, they’re more inclined to replicate that environment in their private life as well. They keep the same friendships from school into their adult life, and there’s more of a group mentality (like a football team, maybe) than an individual one.

And then she went on to talk about how men like to be together for some reason that I’ve forgotten, but basically just think of how men like to have football-watching parties, where women probably aren’t invited but if they are they’re on the outskirts. Something like that.

Women I think do the same thing (girls’ night out?), but it’s less inclusive than what men do. Women can move between groups rather rapidly and even simultaneously, but men seem to stick more to one group at a time. I’m just speculating, though, and since I’ve never been to a single-sex school I don’t know if it actually fosters what my prof says it fosters. Do you think people who go to same-sex schools tend to replicate that environment more than people who went to co-ed schools?

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