Wodehouse uses glass and glasses to symbolize the intellect and delicacy associated with Harold. Harold’s intelligence is identified with his glasses from the very beginning of the story, when Wodehouse writes, “his eyes [were] a trifle cloudy behind their spectacles […] His powerful brain was plainly busy.” Later, Wodehouse notably describes how Harold “fixed his eyes upon the cut-glass hangings of the chandelier” as he prepared to recite his poem. The fragile glass chandelier is thus implicitly associated with Harold’s mastery of poetry. Such a chandelier is also a symbol of surplus wealth and luxury, being such an impractically brittle and needlessly lavish source of light. Jane and Bill view Harold like the chandelier—representative of their prosperity and rise in society, and existing in a separate dimension from the hardiness and grit necessary to survive on lesser means; as Bill tells his trainer, Jerry Fisher, “[Harold] ain’t like you and me, Jerry. He’s a little gentleman.”
Wodehouse again emphasizes the connection between glass and Harold by referring to the boy as “[t]the spectacled child,” and noting “his spectacles gleaming in the gaslight.” However, Harold himself dislikes being strongly associated with his eyeglasses: “[Y]ou don’t know how sick a chap gets of having chaps call him ‘Goggles,’” he exclaims toward the end of the story. Much to his parents’ shock, he ardently follows the rough sport of boxing, despite being unfit to fight himself. He has not “run to muscle” like his father, and his glasses certainly can’t take much roughhousing, but he talks about the sport with expertise as well as an “animated expression.” His superior intelligence and decorum fail to quell his passion for a visceral clash. Harold’s keen enthusiasm for the common sport of boxing despite his appearance of being “a little gentleman” hiding behind delicate spectacles suggests that his parents’ lower-class origins have failed to produce a truly refined offspring, despite all the gentility they can imitate; or that gentility is ultimately hollow, and no one is immune to the thrills of a visceral duel.
Glass/Goggles Quotes in Keeping it from Harold
He cleared his throat and fixed his eyes upon the cut-glass hangings of the chandelier.
“‘Be good, sweet maid,’” he began, with the toneless rapidity affected by youths of his age when reciting poetry, “‘and let who will be clever’—clever, oh yes—‘do noble things, not dream them’—dream them, oh yes—‘dream them all day long; and so make life, death, and that vast f’rever, one’—oh yes—‘one grand, sweet song.’”
“There’s a fellow at our school who goes about swanking in the most rotten way because he once got Bombardier Wells’s autograph. Fellows look up to him most awfully, and all the time they might have been doing it to me. That’s what makes me so jolly sick. How long do you suppose they’d go on calling me ‘Goggles’ if they knew that you were my father?”