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KINGSLEY AMIS'S lUCKY JIM - Essay Example

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In order to appropriately analyze Jim Dixon, it is perhaps best to look at the author who created him. Kingsley Amis was born on April 16, 1922. He with his family lived a lower-middle class existence in Norbury, a suburb just south of London. Kingsley attended the City of London private school on scholarship, and enrolled in the spring of 1941 at St…
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KINGSLEY AMISS lUCKY JIM
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Download file to see previous pages Indeed, the book was dedicated to Larkin; who had helped to inspire and to edit it.
The genesis and reception of Lucky Jim can be found in The Letters of Kingsley Amis. His correspondence with Larkin traces the book through its earliest incarnations, when it was known Dixon & Christine and then The Man of Feeling. Here he is on March 3, 1953 writing, to Larkin:
"I've called it Lucky Jim now, to empahsise the luck theme - epigraph Oh lucky Jim, How I envy him bis. ... I'm afraid you are very much the ideal reader of the thing and chaps like you don't grow on trees."
Jim Dixon's experience dramatizes the conflict between the lower-middle-class drive to invade a higher social stratum and the resultant guilt and self-contempt for abandoning one's own class. A lower-middle-class youth who yearns for the economic security academic tenure affords, Jim earns a degree in an area he neither likes nor understands. By luck, he gets a job as a junior lecturer in history at a provincial university. But it is bad luck, for not only does he detest the medieval history he teaches but he despises the cultural pretensions of his colleagues with whom he must curry favor, such as the Welches: the pompous senior professor, his wife, and their "artistic" sons.
The irony in all of this is that Jim Dixon doesn't feel at all lucky. He's a junior lecturer at a no-account college in provincial England. His daily life is a litany of hilariously (from our perspective, anyway) petty humiliations at the hands of his superiors-notably the odious, conceited Professor Welch-his students and his co-dependent sort-of-girlfriend Margaret.
"One theme of Lucky Jim was getting good things wrong," Amis explained in an interview. "Culture's good, but not the way the Welches did it. Education is good ... but it is self-defeating if it isn't done properly." (Firchow 27) He fails as an academic, but, with another dollop of luck (better this time), he gets a superior job outside the academy and, as a kind of added bonus (or revenge), wins from Bertrand Welch a young woman of superior social class. (Clive 20)
Throughout Lucky Jim, Amis is concerned with the restructuring of British society which took place after World War II. Some of the effects were intensively felt in the English education system through efforts to open educational opportunities to more members of the working and middle classes. The growth of the provincial universities and the decline of the influence of the culturally elite led to friction between the old and the new orders. In Lucky Jim, such cultural change leads to conflict between Jim Dixon, a young history instructor, and Professor Welch, his department chair. Jim sees history as a means of planning and preparing for a better future; Welch sees it as a means of romanticizing and sentimentalizing the past. Amis expands this conflict through Jim's interactions with his colleagues and acquaintances. Welch asks Jim to give a lecture titled "Merrie Olde England," a title which symbolizes the nature of the conflict. Welch tests Jim to see if he is willing to perpetuate a myth, while Jim and his fellow veterans are trying to cope with life, love and a new social order.
The conflict between Jim as representative of a new England and Welch as defender of the old one expands to include Welch's family and some of Jim's colleagues. As a weekend house ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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