The Prince Gets Fired

Posted by jlubans on November 13, 2023


Reading PG Wodehouse's 1912 novel, The Prince and Betty, I came to an abrupt stop.
Wodehouse (1881-1975), the English language's greatest humorist, almost exclusively wrote humorous stories; think of Jeeves and Wooster. Plum, by nickname, could find humor in the most unlikely places, such as a despondent Dostoevsky or in his own harsh internment in France and Germany during WWII.
But, early in this book, there's a sobering page which stopped me. It's when John Maude (the soon-to-be-prince) is fired by his uncle, Mr. Westley.
This atypical departure from Wodehouse's farcical - good natured and goofy - lyrical style gave me pause.
I reflected, because, like for many in the work force, there comes a time when the grim issuer of pink slips might make a stop at your desk to fire, sack, ax, or discharge you.
In our hero's case, he's fired for going to a ball game instead of working. Well, actually, that's the excuse for Mr. Westley to kick John out the door.
What's different about this dismissal of a less than engaged worker?
It's not the termination as much as the way in which Mr. Westley bushwhacks John and shows him the door.
Here's the excerpt:
"It (John's dismissal) was so different from anything sudden, so essentially not of the moment.
(John) felt instinctively that it had been smoldering for a long time, and realized with a shock that his uncle had not been merely indifferent to him all these years, but had actually hated him. It was as if he had caught a glimpse of something ugly." (Emphasis added.)
I could not but wonder how many of us, when unfairly or shabbily dismissed, have felt likewise; that there was "something ugly", unexpressed.
In John's case, the uncle has hated him from birth because he hated John's father.
The uncle - who had raised John from an infant - never spoke to him about his simmering resentment. He never talked about how badly John's father had treated John's mother, Westley's sister.
Similarly, some folks are fired because of a petty boss' jealousy or envy of a star subordinate or for some other shabby, irrational reason.
Like I said, it's not the what, it's the how, especially if there are repressed, never discussed reasons that could have been aired and perhaps resolved. Instead, the resentment festers until it finally spills over and the recipient gets a "glimpse of something ugly".
ONLY a click away, :

And, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.
John Lubans all text 2023

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