Uncle Podger Hangs a Picture by Jerome K. Jerome
In Uncle Podger Hangs a Picture by Jerome K. Jerome we have the theme of gender roles, responsibility, inequality, control, ignorance and independence. Taken from his Three Men in a Boat collection the reader realises after reading the story that Jerome may be exploring the theme of gender roles. There does not appear to be anybody in the house, especially female, who has the ability to hang a picture. At least not in Podger’s opinion. He alone is qualified to hang the picture and bark orders at others. This may be significant as Podger is taking on the role of fixer that is usually associated with the male. He is physically stronger than others and as such is qualified (in his eyes) to hang the picture. However it is clear to the reader that Podger is not qualified and that the job could easily be done by someone else in the house. Regardless of the sex of the individual but this is not something that Podger thinks. If anything Jerome may be highlighting how stuck in his ways is Podger. How he likes to dictate to others and forgets at the same time he is far from independent himself and is reliant on neighbours for tools.
It is also interesting that Podger takes no responsibility for his actions. Which in many ways may be the moral of the story. It is possible that Jerome is suggesting that men in general like to be in power but do not necessarily do a good job of it. Which is very much the case when it comes to Podger’s actions. He not only blames others but others in the house get injured because of Podger’s actions. It is also noticeable that Podger not only blames others for this actions but he does a lousy job at the same time. A job that someone else could have done better, regardless of their sex. Aunt Maria knows that Podger has taken on more than he can chew but she remains relatively silent and non-critical. Though she does suggest next time that Podger wants to hang a picture she would be better off going to her mother’s for the week. This is the only real verbal criticism of Podger throughout the story and rightly it comes from a woman who is witnessing a man doing a job he has no idea about. Though the job is relatively straight forward. Podger makes a complete mess of it.
There may be some critics who suggest that Podger has every right to so as he has done due to the fact that he is the man of the house. However by agreeing with this statement many critics will find they have fallen into the trap of stereotypical gender roles. With the man having one role and the woman having another. If anything Podger is being selfish and acting with a degree of inequality by doing the job off his own back. He refuses the help of others when as mentioned others might have done a better job and not have caused the havoc that Podger caused due to his own inadequacies. If anything others have to suffer because of Podger’s inadequacies. They are not only blamed for Podger’s dysfunction but they are made to feel as though they are beneath Podger. Again only Aunt Maria is reasonable with her decision to move out of the house the next time Podger decides upon doing something in the house.
There will be some readers who will have sympathy for Podger’s ignorance. They will believe he is only trying to help however the reality is that he wants to be in control of what is happening in the house. Everybody must jump when Podger talks. Something that is clearly noticeable when it takes Podger and half a dozen people to hang the picture. If anything the scene is farcical though serious at the same time. A male is trying to dictate to others that he does not believe are his equal. Though Podger can’t be fully blamed for his actions. He may have grown up with the belief that the male is the dominant force in a household. Things have changed considerably over time with most households being more equally balanced. Women have taken on the role of the male and the male has taken on the role of the female in many households. It’s just not the case when it comes to Podger. He will continue to control others around him and remain blind to his ignorance because of his upbringing.