Lucky Jim is an academic satire written by Kingsley Amis, first published in 1954 by Victor Gollancz.

It was Amis's first published novel, and won theSomerset Maugham Award for fiction. Set sometime around 1950, Lucky Jim follows the exploits of the eponymous James (Jim) Dixon, a reluctant Medieval history lecturer at an unnamed provincial English university (based in part on the University of Leicester

). The novel uses a precise and seemingly plain-spoken narrative voice.

The title is a reference to a popular music hall drinking song, "Oh Lucky Jim, How I Envy Him". It is supposed that Kingsley Amis arrived at 'Lucky Jim' Dixon's surname from a certain address, 12 Dixon Drive, Leicester - the address of the poet Philip Larkin, from 1948 to 1950, while he was a librarian at the university. Larkin who inspired the main character.
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Lucky Jim is dedicated to

Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.


Christopher Hitchens has described it as the best comic novel of the second half of the 20th century, and Toby Young has claimed that it is the best comic novel of the 20th century.

Jim Dixon is a Medieval history lecturer at a provincial university in the North of England. Dixon is a grammar school educated working class boy, and does not have the social skills expected in the provincial British middle class society of the day. Having made a bad first impression in the department, he is concerned about being fired at the end of his first year. In an attempt to retain his job, he tries to maintain a good relationship with his superior, Professor Welch - an often absent-minded and unbearably pompous dilettante. He also attempts, unsuccessfully, to publish his article on the economic ramifications of medieval shipbuilding. Dixon appears to find a willing publisher - a brand new academic journal. Dixon struggles with an on-again off-again "girlfriend" Margaret Peel (a fellow lecturer), who is recovering from a failed suicide attempt after her previous boyfriend dumped her. Margaret employs a mixture of emotional blackmail and appeal to Dixon's sense of duty and pity to keep him in an ambiguous and sexless relationship. Professor Welch holds an "arty" weekend that seems to be an opportunity for Dixon to advance his standing amongst his colleagues, but this goes dreadfully wrong when Dixon gets drunk and burns his host's bedclothes. At the weekend, Dixon meets Christine Callaghan, a young Londoner who is dating Professor Welch's son Bertrand - an amateur painter whose pomposity particularly infuriates Dixon. After a bad start, Dixon realizes he is attracted to Christine, who is far less pretentious than she initially appears. Dixon's obvious attempts to court Christine upset Bertrand who is using his relationship with her to reach her well-connected Scottish uncle, who is seeking an assistant in London. Dixon rescues Christine from the university's annual dance when Bertrand treats her badly. The pair kiss and make a tea date, but during the date Christine admits she feels too guilty about seeing Dixon behind Bertrand's back and because Dixon is supposed to be seeing Margaret. The two decide not to continue seeing each other. Meanwhile, Margaret's ex-boyfriend telephones Dixon and asks to see him to discuss Margaret. The novel reaches its climax during Dixon's public lecture on "Merrie England," which goes horribly wrong as Dixon, attempting to calm his nerves with a little too much alcohol, uncontrollably begins to mock Welch and everything else that he hates; he finally goes into convulsions and passes out. Welch, of course, fires Dixon.

The culmination of her manipulation is Catchpole's revelation that Margaret has faked her suicide attempt to gain romantic attention from either himself or from Dixon. Dixon's feeling that no one has special needs also seems to extend to the unfortunate as well as the fortunate. make Christine seem less artificial than Margaret." as if he were a child. Christine is quite nice. The novel charts both the bad and good luck of Jim Dixon. Dixon despises unnecessary complexity. and he begins to have a say in his fate. things turn around for Welch's sheets. Christine's sense of humor and genuineness show through. No one explains to Dixon what it is that they really want from him and they usually have ulterior motives. who he is not attracted to. but as the novel proceeds she becomes more manipulative. such as coffee and cakes for supper. the characters who are less mindful of social class²usually those from the lower-most class and upper-most classes²display some coarseness and flaws. middle and upper class. yet she also dislikes all the right people. however. does not endear her any further to Dixon. Welch and Evan Johns. higher classes. Dixon is unremarkable in every way except for his sardonic mental commentaries on those around him. Margaret can be as unaware and self-centered as Professor Welch. Jim cannot help walking right up to them. She can also be jealous and condescending toward Dixon. as Christine finds out Bertrand was also pursuing an affair with the wife of one of Dixon's former colleagues. Dixon's take on luck. and useless clothing. Margaret is less beautiful and refined than Christine Callaghan. for example. appearance. Once Dixon learns to trust luck. Dixon then meets Margaret's ex-boyfriend. with Christine on his arm. bad luck is used to downplay Dixon's role in his own downfall. although he learns early on to appreciate this trait in others. we learn that she is unhappy with Bertrand. she hangs on Bertrand's arm and listen on his every word. and acts the part of his prim and prissy wife. and Dixon. Dixon feels that he has been unlucky as well. who are Dixon's sworn enemies. Jim Dixon has been a junior lecturer in the history department of a provincial college in England after World War II for eight months when Lucky Jimbegins. such as the incident with Mrs. is generally more open to people such as Mrs. hypocrisy. We discover that she is quite young. Dixon and Christine bump into the Welches on the street. Despite the facade of false maturity. as well as her unmusical laugh. employing emotional tactics that often leave Dixon speechless. and it takes her several minutes and some prodding in her initial conversations with Dixon to become comfortable enough to reveal her genuine self. Christine is actually quite shy. who reveals that he was not exactly Margaret's boyfriend at all. it is also indicative of his concern for others. Christine doesn't seem to experience much character change over the course of the novel and. Margaret vacillates from emotional instability to a secretive tone when she talks to Dixon. as he makes the conscious decision to "bet on his luck" for the first time in his life. laughs at his jokes. The value of straightforwardness over pretension and hypocrisy The main traits for which characters in Lucky Jim are satirized are hypocrisy and pretension. for example²have special needs that ordinary people don't have. but rather as the way things should be. is often tracing out the divisions between classes. Christine has the potential to be downright cold when she takes her objective thinking too far. even referring to him as "Poor James. or language. The Welches are mocked for their social pretensions. trying to make a calculated decision about her future rather than succumbing to urges. and linguistic nuances. but when he stops to rue his misfortune. Welch. Dixon also vents his frustration with others through faces he makes to himself in private. Her unremorseful attitude toward eating. is in direct contrast to the philosophy of a character like Bertrand Welch. Although these distinctions are supposed to separate the members of the lower. When Christine finally opens up to Dixon. with his eye for social. Thus. and faking feelings for Margaret that he does not actually possess. The knowledge that Margaret wasn't born particularly attractive. Dixon finally has the last laugh. and Dixon recognizes the loneliness behind each of these modes. offers Dixon the coveted assistant job in London that pays much better than his lecturing position. Dixon's bad luck provides some of the humor of the novel. but because Margaret is even in love with Dixon or Catchpole. but has been unhappy in all her relationships with men. but to whom he is attached by virtue of their friendship and his concern for her. while Dixon considers himself lucky when Christine agrees to come home with him. Dixon is a meek man. visual. such as Evan Johns and Mrs. Dixon's character becomes filled out as he defines himself by what he doesn't like. Dixon's meekness also reflects his fear of hurting Margaret. hardly appears in the final chapters. which focus on the nuances of other people's voices. At the beginning of the novel. some of which have actual titles. The importance of luck in Lucky Jim is signaled first by the title. However. and exploding in laughter at how ridiculous they truly are. and she overcompensates for her homeliness with poorlyapplied make-up and garish clothing.However. the passages set aside humor for self-pity. and the two realize that the suicide attempt was faked to emotionally blackmail both men. who does not see discrepancies in class in terms of luck. However. At the end of the book. but are far more admirable and refined that their pretentious counterparts. At other points in the story. At the beginning of the novel. an aesthetic appreciation of amateur art. in Lucky Jim they actually serve to separate the characters into those who attempt to have class and those who genuinely possess refinement. Margaret and Dixon have become friends. Margaret for her melodramatic romantic. but Jim's feelings towards luck become more elaborate as the story proceeds. drag out all the markings of class. however. and those who feel that some people²artists. but his luck changes over the course of the novel. Christine's niceness and sense of propriety lead her to stay with Bertrand. keeping his real emotions from those around him. Dixon himself is slightly hypocritical when the novel begins. Perhaps due to her unsuccessful love life. It is not until the end of the novel that Dixon is able to be straightforward himself. The Welches. Margaret's largest fault is her tendency toward the dramatic. with their upwardly mobile social pretension. The differences between social classes The theme of the differences between social classes works on a minute level throughout the text. and Bertrand for his attempts to act the part of an artist. Margaret Peel Margaret Peel holds a more senior lectureship than Dixon at the same provincial college. pomposity. which fits in with the Labour government atmosphere after World War II in Britain. as Margaret is sympathetic to Dixon's feelings about the Welches. not just because of her scheming. From this last conviction arises Dixon's socialism. Christine's uncle." Although Dixon's passive surrender to "bad luck" can be pathetic. in fact. Christine has a tendency to evaluate her feelings objectively. and not as omniscient as she first appeared. she decides to pursue her relationship with Dixon. This revelation reflects badly on Margaret. Dixon feels he is free of Margaret. while Bertrand's sense of entitlement reveals his self-centeredness. Margaret. but never really possess it. Meanwhile. His indecisive actions and quite demeanor reflect his fear of being fired from his post at the end of the term next month. Margaret appears to be a threat to Dixon throughout the novel. and downright mean when she is crossed. Bertrand considers Christine to be his "right. who reveals a tacit respect for Dixon's individuality and attitude towards pretension. and then by the repetition of the concept throughout the text. Christine Callaghan When we first meet Christine Callaghan. Motifs . hoping for the best and giving him the benefit of the doubt even though she suspects that there is history between Bertrand and Carol Goldsmith. although his thoughts are not.

Facial features as an indicator of personality The "good" characters in Lucky Jim are fairly easily distinguished from the "bad" characters. but this dress is clearly something that Margaret likes a lot and thinks that Dixon will find attractive. Bertrand and Professor Welch are wearing each other's hats when Dixon meets them on the street in the final scene. and is worn only for effect. The fake quality of the quasivelvet shoes also seems to be specifically indicative of Margaret's lack of sophistication. the dress is symbolic of Margaret's unawareness when it comes to Dixon. of course. Dixon himself. Dixon and Gore-Urquhart bond over their shared contempt for social functions. Characters like Professor Welch. wondering what she will wear. Thus. or even met a fisherman. have animated faces. and Dixon's comic enjoyment of this reversal and of the silliness of the hats more generally sums up his contemptuous feelings for the Welches throughout the novel. dividing the world into people he likes and those he does not. On the other hand. but the comedy of Professor Welch's hat lies in the implication that he has never fished in his life. Symbols Margaret's green Paisley dress and quasi-velvet shoes In the first chapter of Lucky Jim.Urquhart²share a decisiveness about what they do and don't like. and therefore a man of the people. and who are more genuine with Dixon. and Margaret have almost static faces²if their expressions move. Margaret wears the dress again in Chapter 16 when she and Dixon officially break off their relationship. Welch's fishing hat and Bertrand's beret are symbolic of their pretentiousness. Bill Atkinson is remarkable perhaps only for the power of his contempt. . which is. Mr. or at least several faces that they use to convey emotion. as signified by his beret. The comedy of her wearing the one thing Dixon can't stand is also symbolic of the more general comedy of bad luck. Bertrand's social pretensions are more ambitious and continental. Dixon's own face is mobile and we see that characters that Dixon trusts. Dixon makes fun of Bertrand's beret specifically for its uselessness. Thus it seems that the characters who have less to hide. A capacity for contempt as a marker of male "soundness" All three positive male characters²Bill Atkinson. All of Margaret's clothing seems to be unattractive. At the end of the novel. and do not change the general quality of their facial structures.Dixon thinks forward to his upcoming meeting with Margaret. and Dixon's ability to express contempt seems to be what gets him a job as Gore-Urquhart's assistant at the end of the novel. Bertrand. but still sees nothing amiss in wearing a fishing hat himself. It does not block rain or keep him warm. such as Atkinson and Gore-Urquhart. Welch fancies himself a man of traditional England. what she is wearing that night. Dixon. is able to get out of his oppressive situation with Professor Welch and Margaret because he sticks to his instincts. and one way this distinction is made is through the relative mobility or immobility of their features. and Gore. too. Dixon spends several minutes trying to think back to the many variations of Christine's face. Professor Welch's fishing hat and Bertrand's beret Mr. they move slowly. He decides that he can make himself compliment anything but her green Paisley dress and quasi-velvet shoes. have mobile faces that convey what they're thinking.