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Creator / P. G. Wodehouse

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What ho, Plum!

Ineffectual gentry, cunning servants, horrendous aunts—all these were contributed to the Genteel Interbellum Setting by Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse KBE ("Plum" to friends—and the last name is prounounced "Woodhouse," not "Woadhouse") (5 October 1881 – 14 February 1975), a prolific writer of light comedies, who was also responsible for many early Broadway musicals.

Beginning his career in the earliest years of the 20th century as a writer of topical verse for the newspapers, he first made a name as an author mainly of boys' school stories. Wodehouse soon moved into the more lucrative field of light romance, and finally, in the late Twenties, shifted permanently to the pure comedies he preferred. He additionally wrote the book and lyrics to several long-running Broadway musicals, adapted some others to the stage, and co-wrote the original book for Cole Porter's Anything Goes. In the 1910s he, composer Jerome Kern and co-writer Guy Bolton created a pioneering series of musical comedies (known as the "Princess" musicals after the name of the theatre where most of them played) that were hugely influential in showing how Broadway musical theatre could be used for intimate storytelling and songs focused on character; one song from this period, "Bill," became famous when Kern re-used it (with some revision by Oscar Hammerstein) in Show Boat.

In 1940 Wodehouse was living in France when the Germans showed up. After spending nearly a year in internment as an enemy alien, he was released and allowed to live in Berlin and occupied Paris. While in Berlin, he recorded six radio broadcasts recounting his experiences as a captive of the Germans. They were meant to be humorous talks in typical Wodehouse style, and they contained no pro-German or anti-British propaganda, but when second-hand information about their production finally filtered back to England, they went over very badly. His former friend A. A. Milne said that Wodehouse should be tried for treason as a German collaborator. MI-5 judged that Wodehouse had exhibited poor judgement but was not a traitor. None other than George Orwell wrote an essay titled "In Defence of P.G. Wodehouse" where he judged Wodehouse to have been gullible and naive but innocent of any treasonous or Nazi-friendly intent.

Wodehouse reacted to the criticism by emigrating to the United States, becoming an American citizen, and never coming back to England for the rest of his life. He still got a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in January 1975. He died a month later at the age of 93, saying that with his knighthood and a waxwork in Madame Tussaud's, he had achieved all of his life's ambitions. He worked right to the end; his last Jeeves novel was published in November 1974 and he was working on a Blandings novel when he passed away. (It was was published posthumously and half-finished as Sunset at Blandings.)

Wodehouse's stories are generally tangles of zany schemes motivated by frustrated love. For example, say a young Mr. Reggie Worthington wants to be engaged to Betty Harte, but first must (a) disengage himself from Wilhelmina "Billie" Wreckham by pairing her up with Cyril "Bunny" Rabbington-Vole; (b) match Cyril's jealous fiancée, Edith Pilsworth, with Billie's equally green-eyed brother Freddie, who has been trying to keep all men away from his sister, and (c) blackmail Aunt Geraldine into allowing the engagements by holding hostage her prized 17th Century silver MacGuffin. Naturally, Betty, Billie, Cyril, Edith and Freddie all have devised their own zany schemes, each flawlessly assured to land our Reggie example in the soup. Mistaken identities, misinterpretations of events, secrets, blackmail, theft, ludicrous bets, accidental engagements, and, of course, True Love also contribute. A typical Wodehouse novel, as nonsensical and as breezy as it strives to be, is actually very tightly plotted, with many examples of Chekhov's Gun and all its related tropes.

Although Wodehouse penned several overlapping series, among them the "Oldest Member" golf stories, Mr. Mulliner's tall tales, the ongoing adventures of Psmith, and the ever-hopeful scheming of Stanley Ukridge, today he is best remembered for two — Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle:

Wodehouse's most famous Upper-Class Twit, Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster, is the character who probably best embodies Wodehouse's gift for language. Bertie expresses himself with a loopy eloquence, giving this series its much-beloved Cloud Cuckoo Lander sense of humor. His Servile Snarker valet (not butler), Reginald Jeeves, is as capable as Bertie is ineffectual. With, apparently, the same effort most people put into buttoning their cuffs, Jeeves rescues Bertie and/or his friends from their entanglements and restores the status quo.

Blandings, meanwhile, a castle which "has impostors the way other places have mice", is the home of the elderly and ineffectual Clarence Threepwood, Ninth Earl of Emsworth, which is routinely used by his many domineering sisters to imprison nieces or nephews intent on an unsuitable marriage. The would-be fiance has to infiltrate the castle in disguise, often with help from the Earl's ne'er-do-well brother Galahad Threepwood, and capable, sporting butler Sebastian Beach (who actually is a butler), or less often his good friend Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Earl of Ickenham, who aims always to spread sweetness and light, and persuade Emsworth to overrule his sister, which will, of course, give the Earl the nudge he needs to do what it takes for his prize pig, The Empress of Blandings, to win the prize at the country fair away from their arch-rival, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, Bart., and his Pride of Matchinghham.

Sound complicated enough yet?

Wodehouse's books have been the basis for a number of films and television series. The Blandings series has seen Clive Currie and Horace Hodges as Lord Emsworth in movie versions, and Fritz Schultz (in German), Sir Ralph Richardson, and Peter O'Toole on television, although many regard the BBC radio Lord Emsworth, Richard Vernon (who also lent his voice to Slartibartfast), as definitive. Arthur Treacher was well-known as the embodiment of Jeeves in the 1930s, with David Niven (!) taking the part of Bertie Wooster; in the Sixties, Ian Carmichael (also known for playing Lord Peter Wimsey and the BBC radio Galahad Threepwood) as Bertie and Dennis Price as Jeeves. (It is on record that Wodehouse did not care much for any of these adaptations.) Wodehouse himself appeared in the last year of his life to introduce episodes of the well-regarded BBC Wodehouse Playhouse, which brilliantly adapted many of the Mulliner and the Golf stories.

The Jeeves stories were also the basis and inspiration for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Jeeves, which was released in 1975 and failed so spectacularly both critically and commercially that it's still thought of as Webber's only real flop. However, in 1996 the musical was reworked, rewritten and re-released as By Jeeves, which was far more successful and got generally positive reviews.

Most recently, and perhaps most famously, the Jeeves stories formed the basis of the popular early '90s series Jeeves and Wooster, starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, respectively.

Works by P. G. Wodehouse with their own trope pages include:

Other works by P. G. Wodehouse provide examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Waddington's inability to get other people's names right (he keeps calling Finch 'Winch' and 'Pinch') becomes an important plot point in The Small Bachelor.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Parodied in the golf story "The Rough Stuff", in which hapless dweeb but talented golfer Ramsden Waters is madly in love with beautiful Eunice Bray. She treats him like a combination doormat/child-minder because he's willing to take her much younger brother Wilberforce out on the links with him, and when he clumsily proposes marriage to her she's almost more baffled than insulted that such a hopeless dork would think he had a chance with her. However, when he and she are paired in the mixed doubles, to her considerable surprise he turns into a curt, focused, steely-eyed Determinator who plays to win, and she finds it irresistible.
  • Affectionate Parody: "Honeysuckle Cottage" is a loving parody of Henry James and his tales of haunted houses that distort the lives of those who live in them. Except, of course, instead of finding himself in a supernatural horror battling sinister ghosts from the past, the main character is horrified to find himself trapped in an unbearably soppy and sentimental romance.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: As, for example, in the short story "There's Always Golf," where Clarice Fitch longs for a man to hit her with a riding-crop—used in Wodehouse to mock its serious use in the typical "sheik" romances of the period, and hilariously inverted in the Mulliner story, "A Voice From The Past."
  • Blue Blood: Stories with working-class protagonists were rare in the Wodehouse canon. It was either Old Money or Nouveau Riche, although there were plenty of servants and working-class people as secondary characters (and of course there was Jeeves, a valet).
  • Boarding School: He got started writing stories of his type; the introduction of Psmith bridges the gap between his school stories and his comedies.
  • Ceiling Banger: The short story "The Man Upstairs" uses this as a Meet Cute for its main characters.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Short story "The Clicking of Cuthbert", 1922, via a bragging Russian novelist.
    "No novelists anywhere any good except me. P G Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad."
  • Chekhov's Gun: As noted above, these are often put on display, most notably in Right Ho, Jeeves: "We stayed at Cannes about two months, and except for the fact that Aunt Dahlia lost her shirt at baccarat and Angela nearly got inhaled by a shark while aquaplaning, a pleasant time was had by all." The shark is the indirect cause of Angela's severed engagement later in the novel.
  • Children Are Innocent: Subverted at every opportunity — if a child appears in a Wodehouse story, nine times out of ten he (it's usually a he) will be an obnoxious grubby little pest.
    Bertie: I've never been able to bear with fortitude anything in the shape of a kid with golden curls. Confronted with one, I feel the urge to drop things on him from a height.
    Jeeves: Many strong natures are affected in the same way, sir.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Sacksby Senior of the novel Cocktail Time.
      Sacksby: Have you ever been to Jerusalem?
      Nanny Bruce: No, sir.
      Sacksby: Ah. You must tell me about it sometime.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Make their appearance, especially in Mr. Mulliner's tales; Wodehouse in fact created the character to give himself a venue for some of the more implausible story-ideas which occurred to him.
    • A lot of the drama occur because people happen to be exactly at the right place and time to witness someone doing something (and make the wrong interpretation) or to derail another character's meticulously laid plans.
  • Cool Old Guy: The Wodehouseverse has a fair few of 'em. Uncle Fred and the Honourable Galahad are perhaps the best examples, regularly helping their younger acquaintances out of trouble (or, certainly in Uncle Fred's case, cheerfully getting them into it), often with rather impressive Zany Schemes.
    • Don't forget "The Oldest Member". Herewith, his famous counsel to a young golfer:
      Oldest Member: Do you love her?
      Young Man: Madly.
      Oldest Member: And how do you find it affects your game?
      Young Man: I've started shanking a bit.
      Oldest Member: I am sorry, but not surprised. Either that or missing short putts is what happens on these occasions. I doubt if golfers ought to fall in love. I have known it to cost men ten shots in a medal round.
  • Corporal Punishment: Accepted as a matter of course by all the characters in the school stories. On one occasion Kennedy, the protagonist of The Head of Kay's, gets booed by the juniors in his house, and immediately retaliates by giving each of them "six cuts with a swagger-stick".
  • Could Say It, But...: A memorable one from Jill the Reckless:
    "... I'm rather sorry we agreed to keep clear of personalities, because I should have liked to say that, if ever they have a skunk-show at Madison Square Garden, you ought to enter — and win the blue ribbon. Still, of course, under our agreement my lips are sealed, and I can't even hint at it. ..."
  • Cue the Rain: Indiscretions of Archie contains a subversion. In one story (originally published under the title "First Aid for Loonie Biddle"), Archie goes through a series of misfortunes trying to ensure the success of a particularly rash bet he placed on a ball game. When things are at their lowest, Cue The Rain—which rains out the ball game, negating his original problem.
  • The Ditz: The majority of Wodehouse's heroes. In particular, the humor of the Jeeves and Wooster series lies in the fact that Bertie is such a dimwit—an affable, friendly dimwit, but a dimwit—while his hyperintelligent servant Jeeves is really the boss. Whenever Bertie and Jeeves disagree about something, be it Bertie's banjolele playing, whether or not to go to New York, the suitability of Bertie's new tie, or anything else, Jeeves always manipulates events to get his way in the end.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Quite a few of his heroes: see the short stories "The Best Sauce" and "Ruth in Exile" for two good examples.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Many members of the Drones Club go by nicknames, often for excellent reasons.
    • Also, poor Pelham Grenville Wodehouse himself. Rumour has it he refused knighthood for years to keep it a secret. One of his characters, a Mr. Trotter, avoids knighthood for much the same reason — fear of becoming "Sir Lemuel."
      • W. N. Connor, who publicly denounced Wodehouse at the behest of the Ministry of Information, made a point of sneering at Wodehouse's high-falutin' given names. To his credit, he apologised to Wodehouse after the war; to his credit, Wodehouse forgave him, but insisted on calling him "Walpurgis"("Walp" for short) thereafter. (Connor's actual first name was "William.")
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: In The Head of Kay's it's mentioned in passing that Fenn's name is Robert Mowbray, "the second of which he had spent much of his time in concealing."
    • Bertie, whose own middle name is "Wilberforce", is shocked to discover his uncle's middle name: "Portarlington".
  • Framing Device: Wodehouse had several series of short stories that used this, including the Mr. Mulliner series, the Drones Club stories, and most of the golfing stories.
  • A Friend in Need: Many of Wodehouse's characters are motivated by helping out friends. This is especially the case in the Jeeves and Wooster stories, where appeals to Bertie's good nature are central to the plots of Joy in the Morning and The Code of the Woosters.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Sally in Doctor Sally starts to take an interest in Bill when she finds out he's not just an Idle Rich layabout, but she really warms up when she finds out he can recite all the common bacteria found in milk.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • In "Honeysuckle Cottage", a manly-man detective novelist moves into his Romance Novel-writing aunt's cottage as a condition of her will. He gradually realizes, to his horror, that he's becoming the hero of a soppy romance novel, and is powerless to do anything about it despite recognizing all the tropes involved as they come up.
    • In Jill the Reckless, Mrs. Barker recognizes lovers' problems from her reading.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: In an 1958 interview (around 2:20) he said that nowadays he's writing "historical novels". In a 1973 interview with the Paris Review, he said that his stories are set "between the wars, rather. I try not to date them at all".
    • However, as Christopher Hitchens and other critics point out, the attitudes and actions of Wooster & Co. are actually reflections of Edwardian comedy and mores (as in the stories of Saki) rather than the post-WWI era. Wodehouse himself addressed the accusation of his works being Edwardian in the (highly entertaining) preface to Joy In The Morning.
    • The novel Ring For Jeeves was released in 1953, and clearly set in the '50s — World War II is mentioned, and the post-war social change which caused the aristocrats to seek employment is a major plot point.
    • There is also the Bingo Little short story, "Bingo Bans The Bomb." Wodehouse never intended his novels to be read as period pieces, and would update them from time to time, adjusting dates, commodity prices, and so on. The novels only seem Edwardian because Wodehouse himself was an Edwardian gentleman who survived well into the late Twentieth century.
    • In Cocktail Time the characters not only discuss their service during World War II, but make it clear that no-one would like to see a World War III.
    • In Much Obliged, Jeeves, Roderick Spode, who is by this point the Earl of Sidcup, considers renouncing his peerage so that he can run for Parliament — something that only became possible after the law was changed in 1961.
  • Getting Sick Deliberately: Defied in the school story "A Shocking Affair". High-School Hustler Bradshaw bets the narrator that he won't be around to sit the dreaded end-of-term Greek examination. The narrator takes the bet, but stipulates that Bradshaw isn't allowed to use Playing Sick or real illness — he had previously been known to make himself ill in similar situations.
  • Glurge: One of Wodehouse's frequent targets was the novelist—particularly the woman novelist—whose attempts to tug on the heartstrings are generally referred to by Wodehouse as "stearine bilge" or the like. Among many in-universe examples are Leila J. Pinckney in "Honeysuckle Cottage" (of whom one review consisted entirely of the words, "Oh, God!") and Bobbie Wickham's mother; but undoubtedly the pinnacle is Bingo Little's wife, Rosie M. Banks, whose romance Mervyn Keene, Clubman (related to Bertie by Madeline Bassett in The Mating Season) is something of a Glurgic Apotheosis.
  • Gold Digger: Vera Upshaw in The Girl in Blue is a particularly attractive girl who is exclusively chasing rich men, and breaks off her engagements as soon as a richer suitor presents himself, no matter how unattractive he is. Her mother, an actress who apparently behaved the same way in her time, gives her advice and the occasional help.
  • Grande Dame: Wodehouse (very likely under the inspiration of W. S. Gilbert) may well claim to be the patron saint of this trope. For well over sixty years, he devised every variation imaginable, from the lovable (but still willful and determined) Aunt Dahlia to the truly horrible Heloise, Princess von und zu Dwornitzchek (a Rich Bitch who is not even funny). Perhaps the most typical is the formidable Lady Constance (she is, of course, the sister of the many-sistered Lord Emsworth in the "Blandings Castle" saga), but the apotheosis is Bertie's Aunt Agatha, a force-who-will-not-be-denied and who Bertie insists "chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth."
  • A Handful for an Eye: In The Small Bachelor, Mrs Waddington blinds Officer Garroway by throwing the contents of a pepperpot into his face in order to escape.
  • Happy Dance: Freddie Rooke does one in Jill The Reckless on coming up with a plan to reunite Derek and Jill, much to Derek's annoyance.
  • Hero of Another Story: A minor character in one work will often appear as a major character in another. For instance, Monty Bodkin, a supporting character in Heavy Weather, is the hero of The Luck of the Bodkins and Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: The wrong girl often thinks she can turn her fiance into a cultured man. One of the reasons that Bertie Wooster is so terrified of marriage is that the women he occasionally gets entangled with always want to improve him, want him to read great literature or be more serious, want him to stop drinking and smoking and going to the Drones Club.
  • Idle Rich: The majority of his characters. Bertie Wooster could be the trope namer.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In A Damsel in Distress, when George finds out that Maud is engaged to Geoffrey, he offers to do whatever he can to help her and Geoffrey get in touch (since she's not allowed to leave Belpher Castle).
  • I Will Find You: Maud has to be kept at Belpher Castle to prevent this in A Damsel in Distress.
  • The Jeeves: And Jeeves himself isn't the only example.
  • Karma Houdini: Lampshade Hanging in The Head of Kay's:
    I am aware that in a properly-regulated story of school-life Walton would have gone to the Eckleton races, returned in a state of speechless intoxication, and been summarily expelled; but facts are facts, and must not be tampered with.
  • Last Girl Wins: If the focus character or a close friend has been pursuing the same girl across multiple books, it's almost a given he'll run off with the cook in the last installment. Monty Bodkin is a prime example.
  • Left Field Description: He loves doing this. One of his characters has the look of "a pterodactyl with a secret sorrow".
  • Licked by the Dog: James Rodman in "Honeysuckle Cottage". Although he greatly dislikes the dog in question, it ends up saving him from a bad engagement and becomes his Canine Companion.
  • Liquid Courage: Wodehouse loves this trope. Several of his books feature timid young men having a slug of brandy or the like when nerving themselves up to propose to their dream girls. A particularly notable incident involving Gussie Fink-Nottle and some spiked orange juice appears in Right Ho, Jeeves.
  • MacGuffin: This is very often a diamond or pearl necklace, though perhaps the most famous is the Seventeenth-Century English (not Modern Dutch!) Silver Cow-Creamer, the attempted theft of which starts off an entire multi-book uproar in Bertie's love life. The Empress of Blandings herself and the French chef Anatole often serve as Living MacGuffins.
  • Meaningful Name: Wodehouse had his own Naming Conventions.
    • Men with simple one or two-syllable first names, such as Bill or Jimmy, are likely to be the hero, especially in his early romances.
    • Likewise, heroines will have simple one- or two-syllable names like Joan or Betty.
    • Girls with two-syllable masculine sounding names ending in -y or -ie, like Billie or Corky, are likely to be perky, fun-loving, and rather dangerous to their male attachments.
    • Males with two-syllable names ending in -ie, like Freddie or Reggie, are generally silly asses.
    • Males with nicknames, e.g., Barmy or Bingo, are not to be taken seriously even by the silly asses.
    • Young men with names like serious romantic heroes, such as Desmond or Derek, are often heels, as are men whose names end in -o, like Orlo or Rollo.
    • Young women with poetic or pretentious names like Kathrynne or Melusine are usually pills.
  • Meet Cute: Averted surprisingly often when you consider that each book typically has three or four couples. However, it does happen sometimes:
    • Maud ducking into George's cab to hide from her brother in A Damsel in Distress, for example.
    • Barmy accidentally setting Dinty Moore's hat on fire in Barmy in Wonderland.
    • Psmith stealing an umbrella for Eve, who's standing in the rain, in Leave It to Psmith.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: "The Salvation of George Mackintosh" takes it a few steps farther.
    "But I am diffident. What's the good of saying I mustn't be diffident when I'm the man who wrote the words and music, when Diffidence is my middle name and my telegraphic address? I can't help being diffident."
  • Mistaken for Servant: The Earl of Marshmoreton (A Damsel in Distress), mistaken for the gardener.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: In his essay on 'Notes', he renders an oath as "suggestively asterisked aposiopesisnote ".
  • No Name Given:
    • The Oldest Member's name is pointedly never revealed. Particularly blatant during one of his tales where he was the secretary of a tycoon, and where his employer always addresses him as "Hey, you!".
    • The members of the clubs are only identified by their drinks or their meals.
  • Noodle Incident: What happened to/with/by Uncle Fred and Pongo "that day at the dog-races".
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Appears in-story in Cocktail Time. An aristocrat, Sir Raymond Bastable writes a novel (called Cocktail Time) exposing the younger generation. The book goes almost completely without notice, until a bishop catches his daughter reading it and denounces it from the pulpit:invoked
    The burden of his address was a denunciation of the novel Cocktail Time in the course of which he described it as obscene, immoral, shocking, impure, corrupt, shameless, graceless and depraved, and all over the sacred edifice you could see eager men jotting the name down on their shirt cuffs, scarcely able to wait to add it to their library list.
  • Not What It Looks Like: A lot of stories involve a (almost always) male character getting caught in what looks like increasingly compromising situations with a female character. People catching him like that instantly jump to the wrong conclusion, especially if they are their love interest.
  • Oblivious to Love: Packy in Hot Water, as soon as his engagement with Beatrice is over and he sees Jane, realizes he has been this.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: In The Indiscretions Of Archie, Englishman Archie Moffam and Hotel Cosmopolis owner Daniel Brewster get into a nasty spat thanks to Culture Clash and Brewster's pride in his hotel. When Archie turns up again having married Brewster's beloved daughter Lucille things get even more awkward and Brewster spends the rest of the book at odds with Archie who keeps trying and failing to make amends. The news of Brewster's impending grandfatherhood at the book's close finally smooths things over between the two men.
  • Officer O'Hara: Officer Garroway in The Small Bachelor. When Waddington goes in search of Garroway to attmpt to buy back some shares he sold him, he can't remember Garroway's name; only that it was something Irish. As a result, he ends up encountering an endless succession of other policemen with Irish names.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • On one or two occasions, this is the attitude displayed by listeners upon realizing they've gotten themselves trapped into hearing one of Mr. Mulliner's pub-stories.
    • Even more so with the golfer stories, as the younger players have learned to dread when The Oldest Member starts an unavoidable story. (Mr. Mulliner's audience tends to be more receptive, for most part.) Then a golfer (who clearly have been scarred by The Oldest Member in the past) finds his way to The Angler's Rest, and finds out the hard way that there is another...
  • Old Flame Fizzle: In A Damsel In Distress, Maud has been spending most of the book waiting to reunite with her fiancé Geoffrey — only to find that he's become fat and obsessed with food. When she finds out he's also been cheating on her, she jumps at the opportunity to break up with him.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Or Three Conversations, in the case of "The Nodder". The studio heads who employ Mr. Wilmot Mulliner as a "nodder" think that he's learned that one of their child stars is in fact an adult midget and is subtly trying to blackmail them with his knowledge of the secret. Mr. Mulliner, after Drowning My Sorrows the night before due to being rejected by the woman he loves, is in fact trying to pretend that he's paying attention while at the same time trying to hide his raging hangover, having completely forgotten that he ever learned said fact (as he was hammered at the time). And then Mabel Potter — the woman Mr. Mulliner admires from afar — gets it into her head that those concerned are, throughout this conversation, actually attacking her knowledge of what a cuckoo sounds like. Things get complicated.
  • One-Steve Limit: Enforced by the author, to the extent that, if two previously-established characters with the same first name later appear in the same book, he'll change one.
  • Paralysis by Analysis: In "The Heart of a Goof", this turns out to be the main problem that Ferdinand Dribble, the titular 'goof', has when playing golf. He overthinks things by reading all the books and trying to follow their instructions exactly, even if and when they contradict. This inevitably gets to the point where he keeps tensing up and second guessing himself, leading him to choke. Conversely, when he thinks that the woman he loves is in love with someone else, he ends up so miserable and dejected that he can't be bothered thinking about his game, and plays excellently.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: One frequent obstacle in the path of two lovebirds making it to the altar is the person in charge (father, aunt, tutor, ...) of one of them being dead set against the wedding, usually because they disapprove of the other. Part of the plot will involve convincing the parent to give their consent to the wedding, or to find another source of income (when the parent is threatening to sever their allowance if the wedding takes place).
  • Pepper Sneeze: In The Small Bachelor, Officer Garroway finds himself unable to stop sneezing after Mrs Waddington throws the contents of a pepperpot in his face.
  • Pink Elephants: Nutty assumes this in Uneasy Money when he sees a monkey, and Elizabeth encourages him.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Mr Kay, the housemaster in The Head of Kay's, is this to his prefects, to the point that they end up sharing friendly bets about how unreasonable his complaints can get.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Half of the broken engagements in Wodehouse's stories are due to a misunderstanding from one of the lovebirds (usually the woman) about the other's actions, leading to an instant severing of the engagement without explanation, leaving the other unable to even understand why this happened and delaying the very simple explanation that would have cleared everything for about half the book.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Wodehouse's dialogue sparkles on the written page, but often sounds painfully artificial and forced when converted to actual human speech.
  • Releasing from the Promise: In a Mr. Mulliner story, he explains that a Mulliner can't break an engagement; only the woman can.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The news article in A Damsel in Distress detailing Lord Belpher's altercation with George, and the consequences. "Outside the Carlton, 'tis averred / These stirring happenings occurred..."
  • Scary Black Man: Peteiro, Sheen's opponent in the final match of the boxing championship at the end of The White Feather — he's introduced as "a sturdy youth with a dark, rather forbidding face", and his reputation as a boxer is such that one character fakes an injury rather than face him in the ring.
  • Serious Business:
    • The climax of "The Nodder" involves a debate over the correct sound that a cuckoo makes getting so heated that it climaxes with a man clarifying the matter as if he's passionately inciting a jury to acquit someone wrongfully and unjustly accused of murder.
    • And of course the game.. life-centering religion of golf in all of the Oldest Member stories.
  • Spare to the Throne: Lord Marshmoreton in A Damsel In Distress was the son of a younger son who never expected to inherit the estate. He'd planned to earn his living on a fruit farm in Canada, until the deaths of his uncle and cousin landed him with the land and title.
  • Stock Rhymes: In one of his essays, he laments the difficulty of writing song lyrics when the English language has exactly five words that rhyme with "love", all of which are considered painfully cliché due to overuse. Thus the lyricist's only choice is either to pick one from "above / dove / glove / of / shove" and be mocked for using clichéd rhymes, pick an almost-rhyme and be mocked for not rhyming correctly, or somehow avoid using the word "love" when writing Silly Love Songs!
  • Strictly Formula: Wodehouse's plots are very formulaic, but most readers don't mind, due to his highly entertaining style.
  • Talk About the Weather: In Hot Water, one character's timidity is described as he would talk about the weather.
  • Take That!: After Wodehouse had been denounced by the orders of the Minister of Information, Alfred Duff Cooper, he was lambasted in the newspapers by his fellow-author, A. A. Milne. In The Mating Season, written while Wodehouse was being held by the Germans, Gussie Fink-Nottle on being arrested gives his name as "Duff Cooper"; in the same novel, Bertie Wooster is sickened by the prospect of reading Milne's "Christopher Robin" poems publicly. Wodehouse returned to the attack in "Rodney Has A Relapse", in which reformed vers libre poet Rodney Spelvin writes smarmy poems about his toddler son, "Timothy Bobbin".
    • An affectionate one occurs in the dedication of The Heart of a Goof: "To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time."
    • When the Irish playwright Sean O'Casey grumbled that Wodehouse was "English literature's performing flea", Wodehouse combined this with Insult Backfire and published a collection of his letters to his friend Bill Townend, calling it Performing Flea.
    • Take That Us: Jill The Reckless features a writer, well-known for creating successful stage comedies, trying his hand at a drama, with disastrous a book that is more of a drama than standard Wodehouse fare.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: The titular house of "Honeysuckle Cottage" seems to have an unerring ability to turn the life of anyone who lives in it into a plot straight out of an unbearably sentimental romance novel.
  • Tomboyish Name: Stephanie "Stiffy" Byng in Code of the Woosters and Zenobia "Nobby" Hopwood in Joy in the Morning.
  • Tough Room: The golf stories are told by the Oldest Member to various young men, who desperately try to avoid having to listen to them. Mulliner also sometimes traps people into hearing his tales of his countless relatives.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Played with and ultimately averted in Jill the Reckless. Jill's impulsiveness is frowned upon by quite a few characters and even causes her fiancé to break off the engagement. However, it turns out that the fiancé wasn't such a great guy anyway, and Jill's Second Love understands that her recklessness is one of her finest qualities.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: A frequent complication. Quite frequently Bertie Wooster will have a buddy who wants to get married but can't, because he's broke. Bertie tries to fix things and screws everything up, then Jeeves rides to the rescue and gets the couple together.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Mr. Mulliner is a fisherman spinning tales in his local pub; Wodehouse deliberately used him to frame the more ridiculous story ideas that occurred to him.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In the second of his five infamous Berlin radio broadcasts, he calls the French prison official who registered him a "silly son of a bachelor." (Think about it.)
  • Upper-Class Twit: Could be considered the Trope Codifier. Bertie Wooster is an amiable dimwit, and also very rich. Most of his friends are dumber than he is. A few are book smart (like Gussie Fink-Nottle) but are usually silly and weird in their own way.
  • The 'Verse: Virtually all of his works seem to be set in the same world; major characters from one work will often be mentioned casually in another, and the same fictional locations pop up in various works as well. Lampshaded in the introduction to Summer Lightning thus:
    A certain critic — for such men, I regret to say, do exist — made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained 'all the old Wodehouse characters under different names.' He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have out-generalled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.