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When the Wooer is a Persistent Superman

George Emerson is a persistent wooer. He is genuinely concerned about Aline getting thinner and paler since her arrival at the Castle, for which he holds her father responsible. The diet of the father of the wooed is his own problem, but for his daughter to support him by declining baked meats and restrict herself to some miserable vegetable messes, is, he thinks, his problem. That is how he painstakingly assembles the tray which he intends to deliver at her doorstep late in the night. Unfortunately, laws of nature ensure that he collides with Ashe Marson on the staircase, rendering his efforts null and void, what with the cold tongue and its adjuncts getting strewn about the hall.

It never occurs to him that he is often offensively patronizing towards Aline. Supermen are made of a stern stuff of this kind.

By the end of the narrative, we conclude that perseverance is an essential part of the wooing process. Concern for the well being of the party of the other part, aided by a dash of chivalry and humility, also helps. His parting words to Aline are soaked in humility.

‘Why I should have imagined that there was a sort of irresistible fascination in me, which was bound to make you break off your engagement and upset the whole universe simply to win the wonderful reward of marrying me, is more than I can understand.’

Eventually, he wins her over; both the wooer and the wooed elope together. 

It is another matter that it was subsequently held by Mr Beach and Mrs Twemlow that the social fabric of the Castle never fully recovered from an upheaval of this magnitude.

Delegation, not Abdication

Like many other whodunits of his, Plum brings in R Jones as a villain who, having already pocketed a sum of five hundred pounds, plans to lay his hands on the scarab by wrongfully asserting that his letters to Joan are yet to be destroyed. An imaginative intervention by Ashe Marson saves the day.

Herein lie many lessons for all those young men of the upper classes with large purses and small foreheads. One is to refrain from putting their sentiments on record. Another is to delegate a task to an intermediary but not allow it to become a case of abdication owing to blind trust. Keep a check over the ambitions of an intermediary who poses as a friend, philosopher and guide but has eyes only on the green stuff.     

A Dash of Spirituality

Spirituality is often misconstrued to cover visions of ghosts of those who kicked the bucket quite some time back, or a magic wand of some kind, or the odd allusions to exotic and unintelligible mantras which seers recite while seated in a circle around a raging fire somewhere deep within a far off forest in an Eastern country.

My humble proposition is that it is nothing of this kind. It is the presence of an exotic combination of diverse qualities in a human being: Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration, Receptivity, Progress, Courage, Goodness, Generosity, Equality and Peace.

It involves nerves of chilled steel; a capacity to rise after each fall in life; not getting unduly uplifted by successes or depressed by failures; milk of human kindness; empathy; comprehending the psychology of another and offering comfort accordingly; remaining focused on one’s duty; an ability to encourage dissent amongst team members; being detached with what does not really matter; following good values and ethics in whatever one does, controlling our desires and fragile egos, and the like.

If Joan is a role model when it comes to failing and rising up to one’s higher self and being empathic, Ashe shows us how to have a chin up attitude and develop a sense of equanimity. Both aspire for progress and are receptive to feedback. The nonchalant manner in which Freddie reacts to the news that his fiancée has eloped with her lover is yet another example of equanimity. In the relationship between Aline and Joan, if the former has a sense of gratitude, the latter is a hallmark of sincerity.

Baxter is a great example of being committed to his duties and controlling his ego to lump public rebukes from Lord Emsworth. The latter presents to us a fine example of being at peace with his inner self. He may detest Freddie but is generous enough to offer him a trip to London so as to help him recover from the apparent trauma of having lost his fiancée to someone else.

The self control and discipline displayed by Mr Peters tells us how to control one’s desires. For him, improving his health is as important a task to be accomplished as a business goal to be achieved.   

A unique trait provided by nature to Homo sapiens is their ability to play a dual role at the same time – that of the ‘viewer’ and the ‘viewed’. Not many of us recognize and consciously develop this rare quality. An absence of introspection means the bliss of solitude is never enjoyed and an inner compass never used. One ends us missing the trees for the woods of life by not taking a strategic view of things.

Something Fresh also tells us that giving pleasure to others is a goal worthy of pursuing.

As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.

Fans of Plum all over the world would heartily acknowledge that he has always delivered satisfaction on this count.

Developing Spiritual Traits

How can one develop such qualities? Both nature and nurture play a role, I believe. Our inner software enables it. Also, the more challenges we face in life, the faster we run on the track of our evolution.

Take the case of Joan Valentine. Her life has been like a dusty road, filled with potholes of weekly bills to be settled. Her father is said to have been quite rich; he had died a pauper, sans any insurance.  After coming to London, she has done pretty nearly everything to keep the wolves away. She has worked in a shop, gone on to stage, and a myriad other things. She is sick of fighting. She wants money and ease. She is no longer interested in a life full of jerks. She is looking for a phase which is solid and continuous.

Because of the kind of setbacks she has had in life, she has developed a sense of compassion and empathy. She turns out to be a great comforter friend for Aline.

Shaken by the sudden elopement of Aline with George, she shares her innermost thoughts and vulnerabilities with Ashe Marson, who loses no time in expressing his feelings towards her and proposing to her. She accepts.

The moral of the story: a better connection with one’s own self, coupled with a higher level of consciousness, can facilitate spiritual growth. A tendency to soliloquize could initially help. Hamlet would heartily approve of the sentiment.  

A Balm for the Wounded Soul

Wodehouse is not necessarily about escapism in the guise of farcical butlers, spoiled nephews and nosy and overbearing aunts. His works also contain philosophical insights and hidden truths of life.

He paints a vast canvas for us to relish in each of his narratives. Something Fresh is no exception. The storyline may appear thin but there are deeper layers waiting to be discovered in the narrative. There are gems which, if discovered, brooded and acted upon, can lead us to live happier and healthier lives.

The wit, the wisdom and the pristine humour of his canon offer a concoction which is truly a balm for a wounded soul.

(Notes:

  1. For some other perspectives on Something Fresh, please check out: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/blandings-centenary-something-fresh-by-p-g-wodehouse, and https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/03/05/book-review-something-fresh
  2. In case a similar analysis of The Code of the Woosters would interest you, please check out the series of posts beginning from the following one: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/bertie-wooster-and-the-art-of-breaking-bad-news-gently.)

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Ladies and Gentlemen of the world,

Allow me to lodge a protest.

The derogatory manner in which I am generally referred to by the Homo sapiens is a matter of sincere regret. I wish to ass-everate that I have sterling qualities of head and heart. Even though a vast majority of you copy me ass-iduously in your day-to-day lives, you hold the member of my species in a low esteem. This is patently unfair. Permit me to set the record straight and ass-ert myself.

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