Alan Milne's Mock-Character as a Way to Critisize Society

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A.A. Milne has created a character from 1920s english high society. This mock-serious character serves as a medium for Milne’s social criticism of the people that this society can create. The character’s personality and values can be described as a combination of Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s historical realism in Pride and Prejudice and Duke de la Omelet’s pompous caricature. Through Milne’s use of rhetorical devices he conveys these ideas to the reader.

Milne gets across that the speaker is a self-centered, egocentric leach on society. The overarching tone of the passage is one of snobbery. The speaker’s language is consistently pompous. In line 26 “Celery demands a pipe rather than a cigar” diction like “demands” creates a situation where nothing but his own truth is. The tone of this statement creates the idea that this man is such a snob that a cigar is never good enough for celery. The speaker also says in line 30 “celery is not a thing to share with any man,” though there is some truth to this, in that celery is a loud food, painting a picture that his personality is so self-centered that he can't handle a little bit of noise from a fellow celery eater. When another man in the inn takes one of the speakers final pieces of celery his thoughts exclaim “Horror!” in line 40. Showing that he likely comes from an environment where the people around him are the same as him or bend to his will, creating this personality that even after an apology from the other man, simply takes note to “lock the door” in line 43. One of the most audacious of his claims is when he alludes to knowing more than the poet Keats in line 16 “what an opportunity he missed by not concentrating on this precious root” this speaks highly about the sheer ignorance and self absorbed beliefs of the speaker as to criticize Keats, who is accepted across literature as one of the cornerstones of poetry. Despite all of these references to celery in this passage, it is likely not the only thing that the speaker feels this way about. Milne uses parallelism of a sorts by having all the speaker’s whims relate to celery in some way to emphasize Milne’s point. A hint that the speaker feels this way about other topics is when he says “winter as a horrid, wet dreary time fit only for professional football” on line 45, putting down the everyday man's sport in England at this time. Also, the speaker can be related to other works of literature that created similar characters.

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The speaker in this passage resembles the absurd but true to life Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the far less real but similarly over the top character of Duke de la Omelet. This comparison creates a reference to other canon that can help to figure out the speaker’s personality and values. By looking at these correlations, assumptions can be drawn about other characteristics of the speaker. Lady Catherine, much like the speaker in this passage, has an oversized view of how important she is in the world. This makes sense because both come from high society of England premodern date. Lady Catherine’s purpose in Pride and Prejudice is to make fun of Englands high society and does so through an indirect satire on her class through a overblown yet realistic portrayal of her much like A.A. Milne does with the speaker in this passage. Another character that can be compared to the speaker is Duke de la Omelet. The Duke relates more to the part of the speaker that is a bit over the top. When the speaker says “Horror!” because of a stranger taking his celery and when the duke dies because of the slightly mis-prepared food illustrates the similarity to each other. The Duke was also the target of an author highlighting pompousness and an absurd sense of self importance. The combination of these people and the speaker creates an image of this character’s personality and values.

Another defining feature of this character is the fact that he seems to do no work of any sort. The author doesn’t give any hint of an idea that the speaker has to work, besides the thought on line 47 “ good work will be done this winter,” surrounding this “Life shall be lived well” and “long pleasant evenings,cheery fires” says that this work is likely not his own but perhaps that of a business he owns and doesn’t manage. A.A. Milne creates the picture that this character is simply a leach on society through his lack of working, and his demands on others “... and, waiter, some more celery,” line 49. Throughout the essay the speakers thoughts and actions would likely never have been thought by an average person. This is due to the sheer unimportance and fravility of them, but to this man they comprise his everyday, and are the very ideas that his life revolves around.

Much of this piece is evidence towards Milne’s point about what can be created in high society England. The speakers self-centered attitude is highlighted through his opinions on celery and overblown self importance. The speaker displays remarkable similarities to characters from other canon that display similar ideas. He is a drag on society through his not working and demands upon those around him. Through these methods Milne has created a character to display his social criticism.

Works cited

  1. Austen, J. (1813). Pride and Prejudice. T. Egerton.
  2. Milne, A. A. (1922). The Sunny Side: A Book of Verse for Children. Methuen & Company Limited.
  3. Milne, A. A. (1924). Not That It Matters. Methuen & Company Limited.
  4. Shaw, G. B. (1913). Pygmalion. Constable.
  5. Wilde, O. (1895). The Importance of Being Earnest. Samuel French, Inc.
  6. Wodehouse, P. G. (1923). Leave it to Psmith. Herbert Jenkins Limited.
  7. Bronte, E. (1847). Jane Eyre. Smith, Elder & Co.
  8. Dickens, C. (1850). David Copperfield. Bradbury and Evans.
  9. Eliot, G. (1871-1872). Middlemarch. Blackwood & Sons.
  10. Wharton, E. (1913). The Custom of the Country. Charles Scribner’s Sons.

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