4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Status anxiety in the 1880s,
This review is from: The Diary of a Nobody (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Charles Pooter fails to see - because he does not 'happen to be a Somebody' - why his diary shouldn't be interesting, and he's absolutely right. His is a very interesting diary indeed. Small as it as (barely 120 pages in the Oxford World's Classics edition), and though written in a very easy to read style, without ever touching on anything but the most trivial subjects, it is still a very powerful portrait of a particular class in a particular age.
Charles Pooter and his wife have just moved to their new house in a London suburb when he decides to start keeping a diary. Day after day Charles jots down his notes and reflections on scores of things that matter to him: how they settle in in their new neighbourhood, the visits in the evenings of their friends Gowing and Cummings, the troubles concerning his son Lupin weighing on his mind, the relation with his boss Mr. Perkupp, ... And before long, as a reader you start getting a unique insight into the English middle-class of the 1880s, or virtually any age for that matter. After a while - when the laughter has died down - you start realizing what an extremely small (mental) world these people inhabit, and how their happiness depends on what are in themselves very trivial things.
Although at first sight their life is comfortable enough, and Charles Pooter likes a good laugh as much as the next person, there is always - lurking just slightly beneath the surface - a constant feeling of stress and anxiety. Charles Pooter's thoughts are dominated by 2 things only: to be considered respectable by his peers, and to fulfill the slightest wish of his betters (Mr. Perkupp seems in Pooter's eyes almost a sort of demi-god). But unfortunately for Pooter, and luckily for us, he's the type that often succeeds in making a fool of himself.
In the end it may all seem innocent fun, and though I laughed and amused myself with the mishaps in Charles Pooter's life, at times I couldn't but feel sad and sorry for him, and the nameless millions of people like him: doing their utmost to fit in, to keep up appearances, and living in constant stress because of it.