In the British tradition, a white feather has long been a symbol of cowardice or pusillanimity in battle or when facing adversity. In The White Feather, Wodehouse applies this metaphor to the dog-eat-dog world of school. When an introverted and academically minded student displays a pronounced lack of courage when attacked by a gang of street toughs, he is ostracized by his peers and develops an outlandish scheme to restore his reputation.
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