CharactersThere is more than a touch of the picaresque rogue in Jim Dixon. Jim perpetrates asuccession of practical jokes, tricks, and deceptions on other characters in the novel,especially those who offend his democratic sensibility.
He has a talent for “pulling faces” and projecting voices gestures Amis uses toenhance Jim’s social commentary. He is sometimes aided and abetted in his rogueryby his fellow boarder, the salesman Bill Atkinson.On campus, in addition to Welch, Johns, and Margaret, Jim is seen interacting withcertain female students to whom he is attracted and with Mr.
Michie, an ardent overachiever who keeps pushing Jim to provide him with thesyllabus for Jim’s honors tutorial.Off campus, Jim meets Christine Callaghan and eventually steals her away fromBertrand Welch. Through Christine he meets her uncle Julius GoreUrquhart, a wealthyentrepreneur and critic who hires Jim as his personal secretary.
ThemesAs in all good comedy, the theme of this book is the difference between appearanceand truth, between illusion and reality. The theme plays itself out through theconventional concerns of romantic love. Jim is caught between the falsity of MargaretPeel and the freshness of Christine Callaghan. He is caught between one job, thefuture of which involves kowtowing to Welch until he becomes an historical fossillike his superior, and another job the prospect of which offers a supportive employerand interesting work. Amis projects Jim through a series of complications during thecourse of which the author critiques the stodginess of England’s moribund socialsystem.
The obligatory happy ending is fulfilled when Jim ends up with the properwoman and the proper work.Techniques/Literary PrecedentsLucky Jim is a conventional novel; its narration is third person, its development ischronological, and its style is a conventional mixture of dialogue and description. Thecharacterizations are clearly and sharply drawn. The novel abounds in verbal wit,comic gesture, and good natured satire. One of its most distinguished qualities is thepacing and power of key descriptive passages. Amis controls and builds excruciatinglycomic tension in such descriptions as Welch attempting to pass a van on a curve with abus veering down from the opposite direction or Jim awakening with a hangover todiscover that his mouth still bears witness to his excesses.
A recurrent theme in criticism on Amis is that he continues a long tradition of wit,social satire, and picaresque heroism which began with the novels of Henry Fielding,and that he provides for contemporary readers satirical novels like those EvelynWaugh produced during the middle decades of the twentieth century.