The Code of the Woosters: PG Wodehouse’s guide to fighting fascism (The Guardian)

This article by Sam Jordison appeared online at The Guardian today: The Code of the Woosters: PG Wodehouse’s guide to fighting fascism | Books | The Guardian

In many respects it’s a welcome move in the right direction, away from the usual misinformation and conjecture about Wodehouse’s wartime experience. Sam Jordison is right to point out that Wodehouse made fun of the British fascist Oswald Mosley in The Code of the Woosters (1938):

The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting “Heil, Spode!” and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: “Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?

The fascist Spode is a superbly ridiculous character, and many modern readers (self included) derive immeasurable satisfaction from seeing him trounced by Bertie. But Jordison’s fascism-fighting message (as Noel Bushnell points out) claims Wodehouse for one cause against another.

Wodehouse didn’t restrict himself to ridiculous fascists. He was a far more egalitarian writer who also created ludicrous Communists, crooked Conservatives, loathsome peers, and grotesque Captains of Industry. Wodehouse’s treatment of these characters – if it tells us anything at all – suggests that he found them equally ridiculous (and ripe for picking as character sources).

The message Jordison takes from The Code of the Woosters is:

‘the best and most effective ways of beating fascists: you stand up to them and you point out exactly how ridiculous they are.’

Sadly, if humour were really ‘the best and most effective way of beating fascists’ and other ridiculous extremists, the battle would have been won long ago; Private Eye would be Britain’s leading newspaper, and Wodehouse’s Berlin Broadcasts (misrepresented by detractors, regretted by supporters) would be lauded as part of this effort. But don’t take my word for it — read them yourself and make up your own mind.  


8 thoughts on “The Code of the Woosters: PG Wodehouse’s guide to fighting fascism (The Guardian)

    1. What Ho, Noel. Good point. I started responding to you at length — but have decided instead to revise my link to the piece for others who come across it (rather than in the comments).


      1. Honoria, I’m sorry to be political and won’t go on with this. Your writing and that of others about Plum and his works are welcome relief from all the bad stuff going on in the world. Have a happy Christmas and keep up the good work.


    2. Please don’t apologise Noel. It was my first attempt at ‘pressing’ an article into my blog and as the article chosen made political comment, ‘I started it’. I really ought to have made more comment when sharing it originally — I have made an attempt to correct that now by expanding my commentary on the article and I’d be interested in your view of it.

      It is tricky ground to navigate for all sorts of reasons. One of my pet hates is seeing Wodehouse claimed by one ‘side’ or another. But I also have to be utterly diligent in not doing this myself. I do try to be clear when I am expressing my own views (rather than presenting opinion as fact) but I probably don’t always get it right.


      1. Thank you Mrs P. but I’ll let it go. We’ve just had a Christmas bomb plot thwarted here in Melbourne — for real; three charged, none of them Nigel Farage or Donald Trump or even Vlad Putin — and it’s all too depressing for words. The only solution is Plum pud and champagne.


  1. I’m currently re-re-re-re-re-re-re-reading the Code of the Woosters.
    and as the many and many times before, I find myself laughing late at night and thinking about “To be or not to be” by Mel Brooks. If all totalitarian regimes have one thing in common is that they completely lack the sense of humor. that’s why they fear so much humorists and usually kill them: in one way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

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