English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Emily Heady


Cultural Studies, Edwardian era, Identity, Masculinity, P. G. Wodehouse, Sports


English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles


P. G. Wodehouse offers a serious and sustained critique of English society using the game of cricket as he follows the lives of two memorable characters, Mike Jackson and Rupert Psmith. Yet Wodehouse has frequently been accused of existing as too innocent of a bystander to understand the underpinnings of society, let alone to offer a critique. For example, Christopher Hitchens in a review of a Wodehouse biography by Robert McCrum states, "Wodehouse was a rather beefy, hearty chap, with a lifelong interest in the sporting subculture of the English boarding school and a highly developed instinct for the main chance. . . . He was so self-absorbed that he was duped into collaboration with the Nazis and had to plead the `bloody fool' defense" (266). Despite this and other degradations of Wodehouse's ability and character, the question arises: how could one so self-absorbed and unaware of the culture, aptly capture the eccentricities of so many characters? An initial answer might be that by offering a critique laced with humor, Wodehouse offers an insightful picture of English society that is doubly effective because of its tactfulness.