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Posts Tagged ‘The Code of the Woosters’

ashokbhatia

Most of us love Bertram Wilberforce ‘Bertie’ Wooster. Unlike some goofy female characters who would not mind taking ‘a whack at the Wooster millions’, we do not love him for his money. We love him for his self-less attitude and simplicity.CodeOfTheWoosters

Some of us pity him for being ‘mentally negligible’. His tendency to keep getting into one soup or the other often makes us feel superior to him. Whenever he gets stuck, Jeeves rallies around. He keeps pulling him and his pals out of the kind of predicaments they keep facing from time to time. If ever Bertie’s pride gets hurt and he decides to untangle an issue all by himself, disaster lurks around the corner.

All through, Bertie’s actions are governed by The Code of the Woosters which is essentially about never letting a pal down. However, I do believe that there are several finer shades to it. Each…

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ashokbhatia

Howsoever irrational and demanding his pals, Bertie would never let them down. Show him a soul in torment and he would rush in to provide the healing touch. A couple whose union is threatened by either a parent or an uncle gets his unstinted support, even if it means his taking the rap for a misdemeanor he is not at all connected with.Code of the Woosters Cover 5

We see him rallying around when a member of the so-called sterner sex is incapable of expressing his tender feelings to a member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. Often, we find him persuading a member of the opposite sex to end a bitter feud with a friend who has been returned to store on account of some misunderstanding.

At times, we find him charming his returned-to-store pals against running across the Atlantic. This ensures that they remain readily available for a speedy reconciliation between the…

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ashokbhatia

The code that Bertie Wooster follows while interacting with the denizens of Plumsville has several finer shades to it.Code of the Woosters Cover 3

Here are some more examples, as gleaned from The Code of the Woosters.

Being a Boy Scout and a Bulldog

Bertie is invariably happy when playing the role of a boy scout. Performing little acts of kindness makes him happy. When Aunt Dahlia sends him off on a mission to sneer at the cow-creamer in an antique shop, he does not mind his morning plans getting changed.

When he arrives at the shop on Brampton Road, he runs into Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE. The bulldog strain in the Woosters comes into play. He does not run away. He stands firm.

A Resilience of Nature

These are his feelings when, prodded by Jeeves and Stiffy, he agrees to go and tell Pop Bassett that he plans to marry Stiffy.

It has…

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ashokbhatia

The character of Bertie Wooster is a study in contrasts. He has a dreamy sweetness about him. He is soft and chivalrous. He has a generous soul. He declines all proposals of marriage in a very polished manner. He never bandies about a woman’s name. Code of the Woosters Cover 1

But very often he also displays a unique strength of character. He can also speak his mind. If there is a fruity scheme which might result in the Code of the Woosters getting compromised, he is not game.

The delicately nurtured invariably corner Bertie and persuade him to do something truly goofy and get him into a jam. Gwladys puts her boyfriend with a broken leg in his flat. Pauline Stoker invades his rural cottage at the dead of night in a bathing suit. Florence Craye, Pauline Stoker, Roberta Wickham, Vanessa Cook, Nobby and Stiffy Byng are some other characters which immediately spring to one’s…

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ashokbhatia

When it comes to delivering bad news gently, Bertie Wooster is good. His technique involves an adequate amount of foreplay and inane conversation, followed by the news which is likely to leave the other person all-of-a-twitter.Code of the Woosters Cover 2

However, when the situation demands, he can also be tough on the errant person, putting him or her in place. Mind you, he does not offend. He merely follows the Code of the Woosters and plays firm and steady. He does so till the time the object of his derision wilts and relents.

He asserts himself. Much like the ancient Roman gladiators, he also chooses to be aggressive at times, whereupon his agility and nippiness knows no bounds. If he is sarcastic, his nonchalant manner rules supreme. It is another matter that his brand of subtle sarcasm is often lost on a hard-boiled party of the other part.

Here are some instances from ‘

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ashokbhatia

One of the sterling qualities Bertie Wooster possesses is that of breaking any bad news gently to those who are apt to shiver from the base of their toes to the top of their heads upon receiving it. There is a great deal of finesse to his approach. Seldom do we find him rushing abruptly into a conversation which involves the party of the other part finding itself at the receiving end. CodeOfTheWoosters

In ‘The Code of the Woosters’, we find that he uses an ultra-soft approach while trying to convey a disturbing news. This is true not only for a pal like Gussie Fink-Nottle but also for a quirky character like Pop Bassett.

Asking for Pop Bassett’s Niece’s Hand in Marriage

Prodded by the inimitable Jeeves, Stiffy Byng manages to persuade Bertie to break it to Pop Bassett that he proposes to get married to her. Since this…

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Most of us love Bertram Wilberforce ‘Bertie’ Wooster. Unlike some goofy female characters who would not mind taking ‘a whack at the Wooster millions’, we do not love him for his money. We love him for his self-less attitude and simplicity.CodeOfTheWoosters

Some of us pity him for being ‘mentally negligible’. His tendency to keep getting into one soup or the other often makes us feel superior to him. Whenever he gets stuck, Jeeves rallies around. He keeps pulling him and his pals out of the kind of predicaments they keep facing from time to time. If ever Bertie’s pride gets hurt and he decides to untangle an issue all by himself, disaster lurks around the corner.

All through, Bertie’s actions are governed by The Code of the Woosters which is essentially about never letting a pal down. However, I do believe that there are several finer shades to it. Each facet of the Code of the Woosters represents a set of values, which are as relevant today as they were when originally penned by Plum, a Master Wordsmith of our times.

The Wooster Code De-codified

As we have seen from the series of earlier posts, aimed at decoding the Code of the Woosters, following features stand out.

1. Never let a Pal down
The Goofiness Index of any scheme may be high, but if it results into bringing the sunshine back into the life of a pal, give it a good shove. If blackmail is necessary, so be it. Never bother about your own discomfort or image in society. Always live and behave like a boy scout, out on an errand of mercy. If two loopy characters happen to be affianced, be concerned. Subject their union to a pitiless analysis, especially with reference to their progeny.

Support your colleagues when they happen to run into trouble.

2. Stand up for the Wooster ClanCode of the Woosters Cover 6
Respect the feudal spirit. Be prepared to make sacrifices, wherever and whenever necessary. Health and happiness of a beloved relation is far more important than even a thirty-day stint in the prison without an option. Stand up to blackmail by retired magistrates. Pay them back in their own coin by subjecting them to a bite, if possible.

Cultivate and respect a sense of loyalty.

3. Be a Preux Chevalier
Never say no to a proposal from one of the delicately nurtured, howsoever padded the person might be from the top of the head to the tips of her toes. When it comes to carrying out a goofy scheme dished out by the opposite sex, be flexible. Never ever bandy about the name of a woman. When she gives a build-up to the man in her life, never tell her upfront that she lies.

Be respectful to your colleagues; never take undue advantage.

4. Have a bulldog spirit
Walk with your chin up, your eyes sparkling and with both feet on the ground. Be positive. Never repine, never despair, never allow the upper lip to unstiffen. Always remember that, no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun is shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through.

Be positive, even if a deadline sounds impossible.

5. Be humane; Noblesse Oblige
Consider the psychology of the individual. Be considerate when breaking a bad news to a person, whether a friend or an adversary.Code of the Woosters Cover 3

Before you hand over the pink slip, counsel the person over a cup of coffee. Take responsibility, authority will follow.

6. Stick to rules
Howsoever goofy the act, always follow proper procedures.

Expected to do some hanky-panky? Build a safety net and a cushion for yourself first.

7. Be aware of your Pumpkin Quotient
Knowing your own weaknesses helps. Navigating through the choppy waters of life becomes easier.

Guide those who rank higher; be guided by those who rank lower.

8. Refuse to be a doormat
When necessary, assert yourself. Restrain erring friends and relatives. Put across an objective analysis of your viewpoint. Reason it out.

Learn to say a polite ‘no’.

9. Always meet the Boss half way through
In order to continue to enjoy Anatole’s delicious spreads, never antagonize Aunt Dahlia. When you find stealing a cow-creamer to be an impossible task, analyze the situation carefully. Always keep her informed without any delay.

Get back to the boss before she/he starts twiddling her/his thumbs trying to figure out what is happening.

10. Taming a Hippopotamus by Teamwork
When life pits you against someone like Roderick Spode, a Dictator who heads a Fascist organization like Black Shorts and who designs women’s underclothing on the sly, how do you check his enthusiasm to beat yourselves and your pals to pulp? Think of some nifty team work. Someone like Aunt Dahlia can think of finding a secret against him. Someone resourceful like Jeeves can unearth the secret and you can use it to chilling effect.

You can’t do everything yourself. Use teamwork.

Possible Origins of the Code

What could have been the possible sources of the values that the Code of the Woosters covers?Code of the Woosters Cover 4

Values come to us from our ancestors, handed down from generation to generation. The way our folks conduct themselves at home defines our own value systems. Teachers and friends play an important role in our formative years.

The Woosters are said to have come over from France with William the Conqueror and were extremely pally with him. Some members of the family apparently fought at Agincourt and others did their bit in the Crusades. The origin of the Woosters’ fine sense of noblesse oblige and their strong feudal spirit can be traced to their fine pedigree.

Magdalen College, Oxford

Magdalen College, Oxford

Woosters’ manners are impeccable. Their conduct is above reproach. Even if one of their heirs decides to indulge in such misdemeanors as pinching a policeman’s helmet, a proper procedure is invariably followed. The sentiment to never let a pal down is ingrained in Bertie’s DNA.

Bertie is believed to be an orphan who inherited a large fortune upon the death of his parents. Vacations with aunts and uncles would have shaped his flawless character. The style of living at stately homes and castles would have imparted to him good values, extreme politeness and decent manners.

Bertie’s desire to be a preux chevalier perhaps owes its origin not only to his ancestors but also to the fine schooling he has had. His memoirs often capture his escapades at Malvern House Preparatory School, Eton and Magdalen College at Oxford. Incidentally, all of these happen to be single-sex all-male institutions. This can perhaps explain the presence of an undercurrent of the old-boys-club-feel across all his memoirs.

A Jaundiced View of Life

Many of us bemoan the present ills of our society. Treatment of women continues to be a cause for serious concern. Friendships have become a means to ensure that we have the right contacts in the right places. There is little place in our lives for selfless relationships. Only relationships which enhance our economic and social status survive the onslaught of time. Many of us survive and grow in the corporate jungles we operate in by being Yes-men. We have forgotten how to either register a protest or say a ‘no’.

When it comes to standing up for our families, we suffer from selective amnesia. The definition of ‘family’ itself has got constricted. We take pride in breaking rules. In the relentless pursuit of economic gains, our Boy Scout spirit has faded away. When we see a person facing a traumatic situation, many of us do not care to stop by, enquire and provide a healing touch.Code of the Woosters Cover 1

When a juicy target pops up, we have a tendency to rush towards it without making a realistic assessment of our own capabilities. We fail to enthuse and take along team members we despise for personal and subjective reasons. We do not pay attention to their psychology or what makes them tick. Often, loyalty to the companies we work for gets determined only by the material gains it offers. An inner sense of peace and satisfaction is ignored.

Interpersonal relationships often pose a challenge. Some of us live our lives as if the burden of the whole universe is upon our frail shoulders. We forget to smile. We forget to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. We no longer have a positive outlook.

Our profession does not matter. Our location does not matter. Our technical knowledge does not matter. Our skills do not matter. Instead, what matters is our having the right attitude.

Of Hippopotami and White Hunters

All this brings home the everlasting relevance of the Code of the Woosters. If followed rigorously, it has the potential to effectively counter many of the challenges being faced by us at present. Many a problem can be made to wilt and retreat, much like a young and nervous hippopotamus coming face to face with its first White Hunter.

Let us resolve to be White Hunters, armed with rifles carrying the bullets of the C of the W.

Time to recall our bulldog spirit, walk with our chins up, our eyes sparkling and with both feet firmly on the ground. Not to repine. Not to despair. Not allowing our upper lips to unstiffen.

Pip, pip!

(Concluding Part of the Series on The Code of the Woosters)

[Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/bertie-wooster-and-the-art-of-breaking-bad-news-gently

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/when-bertie-wooster-decides-to-assert-himself

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/of-bertie-goofy-females-and-the-wooster-clan

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/some-finer-shades-of-the-code-of-the-woosters

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/bertie-never-lets-a-pal-down%5D

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Howsoever irrational and demanding his pals, Bertie would never let them down. Show him a soul in torment and he would rush in to provide the healing touch. A couple whose union is threatened by either a parent or an uncle gets his unstinted support, even if it means his taking the rap for a misdemeanor he is not at all connected with.Code of the Woosters Cover 5

We see him rallying around when a member of the so-called sterner sex is incapable of expressing his tender feelings to a member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. Often, we find him persuading a member of the opposite sex to end a bitter feud with a friend who has been returned to store on account of some misunderstanding.

At times, we find him charming his returned-to-store pals against running across the Atlantic. This ensures that they remain readily available for a speedy reconciliation between the sundered souls. This also protects him from the perils of losing his own bachelorhood!

This personality trait – to never let a pal down – shines through all memoirs of his. In ‘The Code of the Woosters’, we find him facilitating two love affairs – one involving Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, and another involving Stephanie Byng and the Rev. Harold Pinker.

As the narrative unfolds, we find him advising the first pair. As to the second pair, despite his better judgment, he gets persuaded by Stiffy to carry out some of her fruity schemes, leaving him all-of-a-twitter.

An Altruistic Nature

Madeline has severed her ties with Gussie and declared her willingness to instead make Bertie happy. Bertie is trying to establish that Gussie’s motives in being intimate with Stiffy were as pure as the driven snow, namely, to secure his notebook which contains some juicy references to Sir Watkyn Bassett and Roderick Spode.

‘It is useless, Bertie. I know, of course, why you are speaking like this. It is that sweet, generous nature of yours. There are no lengths to which you will not go to help a friend, even though it may mean the wrecking of your own happiness. But there is nothing you say that will change me. I have finished with Augustus. From tonight he will be to me merely a memory – a memory that will grow fainter and fainter through the years as you and I draw ever closer together. You will help me to forget. With you beside me, I shall be able in time to exorcise Augustus’ spell.’

Bertie once again tries his best to prove to Madeline that Gussie is more to be pitied than censured.

‘And you say Stephanie has hidden this notebook in Daddy’s cow-creamer?’
‘Plumb spang in the cow-creamer.’
‘But I never heard such an extraordinary story in my life.’
‘Bizarre, yes, but quite capable of being swallowed, don’t you think? What you have got to take into consideration is the psychology of the individual. You may say that you wouldn’t have a psychology like Stiffy’s if you were paid for it, but it’s hers all right.’
‘Are you sure you are not making this all up, Bertie?’
‘Why on earth?’
‘I know your altruistic nature so well.’

Advising a Newt-fancier

Despite having shown the notebook to Madeline, Gussie manages to get Pop Bassett to ban his marriage to her. It is then left to Bertie to advise him on the right course of action.

‘Listen, Gussie,’ I said. ‘I think I’ve got it.’

His face lit up. I could see that optimism had stirred and was shaking a leg. This Fink-Nottle has always been of an optimistic nature. Those who recall his address to the boys of Market Snodsbury Grammar School will remember that it was largely an appeal to the little blighters not to look on the dark side.

‘Yes, I believe I see the way. What you have got to do, Gussie, is pinch that cow-creamer.’

The Risk of a Saunter down the Aisle

Denizens of Plumsville would recall that – in another narrative – when Gussie Fink-Nottle had shrunk from pleading his cause with Madeline Bassett, he had asked Bertie to plead for him. The result was that Madeline thought that Bertie was pleading his own case. So, when Gussie fell out of favor (after a sozzled-up prize-giving ceremony at the school), Madeline had lost no time in attaching herself to Bertie and returning Gussie to store.

Mercifully, things had got straightened out, saving Bertie the trauma of having to spend the rest of his life with Madeline.

Mourning for a Loony Pal

Constable Oate’s pinched helmet has been hidden by Stiffy in a suitcase of Bertie’s. Its discovery by the butler has landed Bertie in a soup. He faces the prospect of thirty days without the option.

Meanwhile, Pop Bassett has forbidden the union between Stiffy and the Rev. Pinker. Bassett Senior has taken umbrage at the part played by Pinker in allowing the purloiner of the cow-creamer to effect her/his escape.

Does Bertie feel happy at the misfortune being faced by Stiffy? No. Despite the predicament in which he finds himself – entirely due to Stiffy – he still wishes the young loony well and mourns for her in her hour of disaster.

The Inheritance of Combined Loopiness

Bertie is not only worried about the relationship between Stiffy and Stinker Pinker getting blesses by her uncle. He is even concerned about the upcoming generation.

‘The more the thoughts dwell on that young shrimp, the more the soul sickens in horror. One peers into the future, and shudders at what one sees there. One has to face it, Jeeves – Stiffy, who is pure padded cell from the foundations up, is about to marry the Rev. H. P. Pinker, himself about as pronounced a goop as ever broke bread, and there is no reason to suppose – one has to face this, too – that their union will not be blessed. There will, that is to say, ere long be little feet pattering about the home. And what one asks oneself is – Just how safe will human life be in the vicinity of those feet, assuming – as one is forced to assume – that they will inherit the combined loopiness of two such parents? It is with a sense of tender pity, Jeeves, that I think of the nurses, the governesses, the private-school masters and the public-school masters who will lightly take on the responsibility of looking after a blend of Stephanie Byng and Harold Pinker, little knowing that they are coming up against something hotter than mustard.’

Never Letting a Pal Down

Sidney Carton confessing his feelings to Lucie Manette

Sidney Carton confessing his feelings to Lucie Manette

Stiffy invokes the Code of the Woosters to get Bertie to fall in line, ensuring that Pinker does not have to take the rap for stealing Constable Oate’s helmet and thereby face the prospect of getting defrocked.

‘I can’t have my precious angel Harold doing a stretch.’
‘How about your precious angel Bertram?’
‘But Harold is sensitive.’
‘So am I sensitive.’
‘Not half so sensitive as Harold. Bertie, surely you aren’t going to be difficult about this? You’re much too good a sport. Didn’t you tell me once that the Code of the Woosters was ‘Never let a pal down?’

She had found the talking point. People who appeal to the Code of the Woosters rarely fail to touch a chord in Bertram. My iron front began to crumble.

‘That’s all very fine-‘
‘Bertie, darling!’
‘Yes, I know, but, dash it all –‘
‘Bertie!’
‘Oh, well!’
‘You will take the rap?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘Thank you, Bertie darling. I knew you would be sweet about it. I can’t tell you how grateful I am, and how much I admire you. You remind me of Carter Paterson…no, that’s not it…Nick Carter…no, not Nick Carter…Who does Mr Wooster remind me of, Jeeves?’
‘Sidney Carton, miss.’
‘That’s right. Sidney Carton. But he was small-time stuff compared with you, Bertie.’

Whenever Bertie finds a friend of his in peril of any nature, the milk of human kindness sloshing about within his bosom comes to the fore. There is nothing he would not do to save a friend in need. This personality trait forms the core of the Code of the Woosters.

(Part 5: De-codifying the Code of the Woosters)

[Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/bertie-wooster-and-the-art-of-breaking-bad-news-gently/

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/when-bertie-wooster-decides-to-assert-himself/

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/of-bertie-goofy-females-and-the-wooster-clan/ https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/some-finer-shades-of-the-code-of-the-woosters

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/de-codifying-the-code-of-the-woosters%5D

Read Full Post »

The code that Bertie Wooster follows while interacting with the denizens of Plumsville has several finer shades to it.Code of the Woosters Cover 3

Here are some more examples, as gleaned from The Code of the Woosters.

Being a Boy Scout and a Bulldog

Bertie is invariably happy when playing the role of a boy scout. Performing little acts of kindness makes him happy. When Aunt Dahlia sends him off on a mission to sneer at the cow-creamer in an antique shop, he does not mind his morning plans getting changed.

When he arrives at the shop on Brampton Road, he runs into Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE. The bulldog strain in the Woosters comes into play. He does not run away. He stands firm.

A Resilience of Nature

These are his feelings when, prodded by Jeeves and Stiffy, he agrees to go and tell Pop Bassett that he plans to marry Stiffy.

It has been well said of Bertram Wooster by those who know him best that there is a certain resilience in his nature that enables him as a general rule to rise on stepping-stones of his dead self in the most unfavourable circumstances. It isn’t often that I fail to keep the chin up and the eye sparkling.

The Chin-up Attitude

When Bertie decides to go and search Stiffy’s room for Gussie’s notebook containing some juicy references to Pop Bassett and Roderick Spode, he is not very delighted at the prospect of carrying out his own plans.

I hate these surreptitious prowlings. Bertie Wooster is a man who likes to go through the world with his chin up and both feet on the ground, not to sneak about on tiptoe with his spine tying itself into reef knots.

When a butler tells Bertie that Madeline Bassett desires him to spare a moment for her, he can foresee the impending doom.

I gazed at the man dully, like someone in a prison cell when the jailer has stepped in at dawn to notify him that the firing squad is ready.
I braced myself with the old Wooster grit. Up came the chin, back went the shoulders.
‘Lead on,’ I said to the butler, and the butler led on.

Being Humane

Bertie is not fond of Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE. He is the magistrate who had pinched Bertie for five quids by way of a fine at Bosher Street.

While being a guest of Aunt Dahlia’s, he has the audacity to make a job offer to Anatole, God’s gift to gastric juices. When Uncle Tom tells him about a silver cow-creamer being held for him at an antique shop on Brampton Road, he hatches a devilish plot to beat him to it. A sumptuous lunch made up of cold lobsters and sliced cucumber follows, making Uncle Tom miss his rendezvous with the shop keeper. Pop Bassett then nips across and buys the cow-creamer himself.

When Bertie is a guest of his at Totleigh Towers, he is not averse to getting his room searched for either a cow-creamer or a policeman’s helmet. Nothing in his record suggests that he possesses a niceness of feeling and a respect for the basic laws of hospitality.

But Bertie is a gentleman at heart. Having just given Pop Bassett a shock by stating that he intends to marry his niece Stiffy, he does not like the idea of Madeline rushing in to tell her father that she wants to marry Bertie. His humane instincts come to the fore.

I started. I could still see Pop Bassett’s face when he had thought that he was going to draw me for a nephew. It would be a bit thick, I felt, while he was still quivering to the roots of the soul at the recollection of that hair’s-breadth escape, to tell him that I was about to become his son-in-law. I was not fond of Pop Bassett, but one has one’s humane instincts.

‘Oh, my aunt!’ I said. ‘Don’t do that!’

A Stickler to Rules

When policemen’s helmets have to be pinched, there is a standard technique to be followed. Giving the forward shove before the upwards lift is the right way to going about it. But when Stinker Pinker swings into action, Constable Oates has taken his helmet off and put it on the ground. Pinker merely creeps up and grabs the desired object.

Bertie believes this to be a wrong way of pinching a helmet. He considers Stinker Pinker’s behavior morally tantamount to shooting a sitting bird.

Members of the Drones Club have strong views on these things. Even in acts of a goofy nature, rules must be scrupulously followed.

The Pumpkin Quotient

Bertie is quite clear when it comes to his ranking on a scale which measures the extent to being pumpkin-headed.

‘I can’t understand you, Bertie – the way you’re always criticizing poor Harold. I thought you were so fond of him.’
‘I love him like a b. But that doesn’t alter my opinion that of all the pumpkin-headed foozlers who ever preached about Hivites and Jebusites, he is the foremost.’
‘He isn’t half as pumpkin-headed as you.’
‘He is, at a conservative estimate, about twenty-seven times as pumpkin-headed as me. He begins where I leave off. It may be a strong thing to say, but he’s more pumpkin-headed than Gussie.’

Being aware of one’s Pumpkin Quotient is a quality many of us can learn.

Never Allowing the Upper Lip to Unstiffen

Depression comes in all sizes and shapes. But irrespective of whether it is U-shaped, V-shaped or W-shaped, we would do well to remember this advice from Bertie Wooster.

‘A short while ago, the air was congested with V-shaped depressions, but now one looks north, south, east and west and descries not a single cloud on the horizon – except the fact that Gussie’s wedding is still off, and that can’t be helped. Well, this should certainly teach us, should it not, never to repine, never to despair, never to allow the upper lip to unstiffen, but always to remember that, no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun is shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through.’

Code of the Woosters has several facets. Each one tells us how (or how not) to lead our lives. The appeal of Bertie Wooster’s character perhaps lies in the fact that these aspects of his conduct touch our inner chords, that too in a manner which is light-hearted and liberally laced with heady humor.

(Part 4: Decodifying the Code of the Woosters)

[Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/bertie-wooster-and-the-art-of-breaking-bad-news-gently

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/when-bertie-wooster-decides-to-assert-himself

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/of-bertie-goofy-females-and-the-wooster-clan

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/bertie-never-lets-a-pal-down

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/de-codifying-the-code-of-the-woosters%5D

Read Full Post »

The character of Bertie Wooster is a study in contrasts. He has a dreamy sweetness about him. He is soft and chivalrous. He has a generous soul. He declines all proposals of marriage in a very polished manner. He never bandies about a woman’s name. Code of the Woosters Cover 1

But very often he also displays a unique strength of character. He can also speak his mind. If there is a fruity scheme which might result in the Code of the Woosters getting compromised, he is not game.

The delicately nurtured invariably corner Bertie and persuade him to do something truly goofy and get him into a jam. Gwladys puts her boyfriend with a broken leg in his flat. Pauline Stoker invades his rural cottage at the dead of night in a bathing suit. Florence Craye, Pauline Stoker, Roberta Wickham, Vanessa Cook, Nobby and Stiffy Byng are some other characters which immediately spring to one’s mind.

Not to be left behind, his rough and tough aunts also come up with demands which put the hapless Bertie in a fix. But unlike other members of the opposite sex, they also stand up and protect him when they notice a threat to the Wooster clan.

In The Code of the Woosters, both Aunt Dahlia and Stiffy exhort him to pinch a silver cow-creamer. He does not fall prey to their machinations. His views on the opposite sex in general and on aunts in particular reveal to us the underlying code of conduct he normally follows.

When the Delicately nurtured Lie

When girlfriends and wives give the men in their lives a build-up, they often end up overdoing it. They never know when to stop while doing so. But do they lie in the process?

I remember Mrs Bingo Little once telling me, shortly after their marriage, that Bingo said poetic things to her about sunsets – his best friends being perfectly well aware, of course, that the old egg never noticed a sunset in his life and that, if he did by a fluke ever happen to do so, the only thing he would say about it would be that it reminded him of a slice of roast beef, cooked just right.

However, you can’t call a girl a liar; so, as I say, I said: ‘Well, well!’

Being a Preux Chevalier

Bertie has perfected the art of retaining his bachelorhood. This is how he explains his reasons for not willing to take a saunter down the aisle with Madeline.

‘I should feel just the same about marrying many of the world’s noblest women. There are certain females whom one respects, admires, reveres, but only from a distance. If they show any signs of attempting to come closer, one is prepared to fight them off with a blackjack. It is to this group that your cousin Madeline belongs. A charming girl, and the ideal mate for Augustus Fink-Nottle, but ants in the pants to Bertram.’

Being a Shrewd but Level-headed Pig

It is understandable that parents do not normally approve of their daughters marrying curates. Same goes for uncles who are concerned about their nieces. Since Stiffy would like to get married to a curate – Stinker Pinker – she must find a way to sell him to her uncle, Pop Bassett. Bertie’s services are requisitioned. However, Bertie has no intentions of becoming a part of any of her loathsome schemes.

I told myself that I must be firm. But I could not but remember Roberta Wickham and the hot-water bottle. A man thinks he is chilled steel – or adamant, if you prefer the expression – and suddenly the mists clear away and he finds that he has allowed a girl to talk him into something frightful. Samson had the same experience with Delilah.

Plain praise would not work, she feels. Pinker saving a drowning uncle from a boat in the lake is an idea shot down by both of them, simply because there is no lake around. A friend dressing up as a tramp and attacking the uncle, followed by the man in shining armor dashing in and rescuing him, is an idea which is quashed by Bertie. Stiffy then comes up with another terrific idea – that of Bertie stealing Uncle Watkyn’s cow-creamer! Pinker would then secure the object d’art and hand it over to her uncle, thereby earning his gratitude and a vicarage. Bertie refuses to oblige, earning a reprimand from Stiffy.

‘I do mean I won’t do it.’
‘Well, I think you are a pig.’
‘A pig, maybe, but a shrewd, level-headed pig.’

Stiffy then offers a reward to Bertie – return of Gussie’s notebook with juicy comments about Pop Bassett and Roderick Spode. Bertie shudders at the prospect.

The Royal Disapproval

Jeeves and Bertie agree that the modern emancipation of women may not have the royal seal of approval.

‘The whole fact of the matter is that all this modern emancipation of women has resulted in them getting it up their noses and not giving a damn what they do. It was not like this in Queen Victoria’s day. The Prince Consort would have had a word to say about a girl like Stiffy, what?’
‘I can conceive that His Royal Highness might quite possibly not have approved of Miss Byng.’

The effect of a Woman’s Grief

‘But you are going to help us, aren’t you?’
‘I am not.’
‘Well, I do think you might.’
‘I dare say you do, but I won’t.’

Somewhere about the first or second line of this chunk of dialogue, I had observed her eyes begin to moisten and her lips to tremble, and a pearly one had started to steal down the cheek. The bursting of the dam, of which that pearly one had been the first preliminary trickle, now set in with great severity. With a brief word to the effect that she wished she were dead and that I would look pretty silly when I gazed down at her coffin, knowing that my inhumanity had put her there, she flung herself on the bed and started going oomp.

It was the old uncontrollable sob-stuff which she had pulled earlier in the proceedings, and once more I found myself a bit unmanned. I stood there irresolute, plucking nervously at the cravat. I have already alluded to the effect of a woman’s grief on the Woosters.

When Aunts aren’t Gentlemen

Aunts play a stellar role in Bertie’s life. But their affection often comes with a price tag. An invitation to the dining table at Brinkley Court could get withdrawn in case of any deficiency in service.

‘If I had my life to live again, Jeeves, I would start it as an orphan without any aunts. Don’t they put aunts in Turkey in sacks and drop them in the Bosphorous?’
‘Odalisques, sir, I understand. Not aunts.’
‘Well, why not aunts? Look at the trouble they cause in the world. I tell you, Jeeves, and you may quote me as saying this – behind every poor, innocent, harmless blighter who is going down for the first time in the soup, you will find, if you look carefully enough, the aunt who shoved him into it.’
‘There is much in what you say, sir.’
‘It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof. Consider this Dahlia, Jeeves. As sound an egg as ever cursed a foxhound for chasing a rabbit, I have always considered her. And she goes and hands me an assignment like this. Wooster, the pincher of policemen’s helmets, we know. We are familiar with Wooster, the supposed bag-snatcher. But it was left for this aunt to present to the world a Wooster who goes to the houses of retired magistrates and, while eating their bread and salt, swipes their cow-creamers. Faugh!’ I said, for I was a good deal overwrought.
‘Most disturbing, sir.’

Standing Up for the Clan

Aunt Dahlia may be too demanding at times. But when the honor of the Wooster clan is at stake, she does not hesitate to put her foot down. Here are two instances which go on to prove this point.

Stopping Spode in his tracks

‘I must ask you to leave us, madam,’ he said.
‘But I’ve only just come,’ said Aunt Dahlia.
‘I am going to thrash this man within an inch of his life.’
It was quite the wrong tone to take with the aged relative. She has a very clannish spirit and, as I have said, is fond of Bertram. Her brow darkened.
‘You don’t touch a nephew of mine.’
‘I am going to break every bone in his body.’
You aren’t going to do anything of the sort. The idea!….Here, you!’

Getting Bertie dismissed without a Stain on his Character

Butterfield, the butler, has just brought in the missing helmet of Constable Oates on a silver salver. While airing Stiffy’s dog sometime earlier, he has observed Bertie Wooster dropping it from his window. Aunt Dahlia takes the floor, trying to protect Bertie. First, she reasons, the helmet could have been dropped from some other window. Then, she proposes that the butler had himself stolen the helmet and was merely trying to pass on the buck to Bertie. Saintly looking butlers with a furtive eye come in for a sharp criticism.

Overall, Aunt Dahlia injects into the proceedings a very pleasant atmosphere of all-pals-together and hearty let’s-say-no-more-about it. However, Pop Bassett is not inclined to dismiss Bertie without a stain on his character. He sees no reason to revise his earlier resolve to get the perpetrator of the crime to serve a prison sentence.

‘Here, come, I say now, Sir Watkyn, really, dash it,’ she expostulated, always on her toes when the interests of the clan were threatened. ‘You can’t do that sort of thing.’
‘Madam, I both can and will.’

When her repeated pleadings fail, she negotiates a deal with the retired magistrate: he gets Anatole while Bertie gets his release!

The Feudal Spirit

Bertie is profoundly moved when he discovers that Aunt Dahlia is prepared to dispense with the services of Anatole merely to save him from getting bunged into a chokey for a month.

‘You were actually contemplating giving up Anatole for my sake?’ I gasped.
‘Of course.’
‘Of course jolly well not! I would not hear of such a thing.’
‘But you can’t go to prison.’
‘I certainly can, if my going means that that supreme maestro will continue working at the old stand. Don’t dream of meeting old Bassett’s demands.’
‘Bertie! Do you mean this?’
‘I should say so. What’s a mere thirty days in the second division? A bagatelle. I can do it on my head. Let Bassett do his worst. And,’ I added in a softer voice, ‘when my time is up and I come out into the world once more a free man, let Anatole do his best. A month of bread and water or skilly or whatever they feed you in these establishments, will give me a rare appetite. On the night when I emerge, I shall expect a dinner that will live in legend and song.’
‘You shall have it.’

Opinion on Bertie’s intellectual capabilities could be divided. But there is no doubt that his heart is in the right place. Even if it turns out to be that of chilled steel, the milk of human kindness sloshing about within makes him yield to pressure from pals and aunts alike. Yet, the core of his heart glows with a dazzling sparkle – that of a diamond called the Code of the Woosters.

(Part 3: Decodifying the Code of the Woosters)

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