Publisher: Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England
Number of pages: 251
ISBN: 14 001648 1
Cover illustration: Quentin Blake
First published by Gollancz 1954
1. Literal comprehension
Who is the main character? What is he like?
James (Jim) Dixon is the main character; he is an unheroic college lecturer who works for professor Welch at the department of history at an English university. He is 24 years old and pretty intolerable: he can=t stand the way of behaving and acting of the high society and that is a very big problem because he lives and works between people of that class.
Jim has a strange relationship with Margaret Peel: sometimes he loves her, but sometimes he is disgusted by her behaviour. Generally you can say Jim is selfish and sneaky (he doesn=t care about a lie more or less) but he is also creative, funny and to the people he really likes he is even friendly, considerate, ...
What other characters are important to the story?
There is Margaret (see also question a), a colleague of Jim, who is neurotic and who already tried to commit suicide.
Jim works for professor Welch and he has also contact with Welch=s wife and their son Bertrand, who Jim dislikes very much, contrary to Bertrand=s girlfriends Christine Callaghan and (!) Carol Goldsmith.
Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Beesley and Mr. Johns are Jims colleagues; with the first and the second he can put up very well, but that is certainly not true with the third one.
There are also Mr. Caton, who is going to publish an article of Jim; Mr. Catchpole, an old friend of Margaret; Mr. Gore-Urquhart, the uncle of Christine and at last >Michie=, an eager student of Jim. Those are the characters you have to know to understand the novel.
Where and when is everything happening?
Everything goes on in the neighbourhood of the university: the university itself, Welches house, hotels, the building where Jim lives, ... It is not possible to say when exactly the story happens but it is presumably situated in the fifties, because that is when the book has been written.
What is happening?
Jim has to prove he is worth working at the department: he has to do this during his trial period by writing essays, preparing speeches, studying his special subject namely the medieval period and of course by being very polite to Welch. In spite of his nice, well-earning job and his complete enviable situation, Jim doesn=t feel happy: he hates many people and especially their behaviour; he doesn=t really like his job, ...
The further the story develops, the more he likes Christine, but he can=t and he won=t disappoint Margaret. Trying to help and contact Christine, to pester his >fiends= and meanwhile staying friendly to Welch leads to hilarious situations.
2. Critical comprehension
How does the author use certain events, scenes, or characters to develop his theme or purpose?
The writer uses the character of Christine to develop his purpose. If Jim wants her, he will have to abandon university, ... if he doesn=t want her he can go on with his seemingly perfect life. But Jim doesn=t like his situation and the personality of Christine gives him a goal and the courage to break up with the Welches and everything he dislikes.
Without Christine Jim would have no problems with the Welches, he would just be able to concentrate on his job and nothing would distract him.
What is the point or theme of the story?
In my opinion the theme of the story could be described as: a difficult young man tries to find his way in life. Suddenly everything seems perfect (good job, no problems, relation) but it doesn=t fit him, he doesn=t feel good. In the end he is lucky to get >offered= another life that, from the outside, isn=t as good as before but it fits him at least.
How is the title related to the theme?
Despite the fact that Jim has always problems with almost everyone, and that he seems to ruin his career and his future, he is always lucky to get a new chance, a new job, ... He always manages to get what he really wants and when he did something wrong, he will surely find something to save him from an embarrassing situation: he is a lucky Jim indeed!
How effective is the ending?
It is extremely effective. For the main character no better ending can be imagined. The ending satisfies the reader and lets him close the book with a smile. The further the story develops you hope and you think it will end like this but the writer makes a relation between Christine and Jim so difficult and in the end so unsure that you start doubting. Because of this the happy ending becomes almost a surprise.
3. Affective comprehension
Explain what feeling you have for the main character and one minor character in the story.
Jim is indeed very intolerable, but I appreciate that he has the courage to react against the enormous stiff and also very conceited upper class. When I read the page where Bertrand tells about the deservingness, the virtue and the very important role of the rich in society, I agreed completely with Jim in reacting against this horrible establishment.
As well as Jim, Bertrand is very impermissible. I can still accept this but Bertrand is also extremely vain and he sees himself as a very interesting person who is always right. This is really unbearable but he is necessary to make the novel funny and sometimes even a bit exciting.
Find one passage that you feel is well written.
I found the dialogues, as the one on page 99 from >In less than ...= till >So long Beesley old boy= (p.102), very well written: it is one of the examples of Jim=s creativity and cool-headedness.
Explain why you do (or do not) like the novel.
I like the novel because it is a very smart and funny caricature of academic life, full of true things but some of them are a little exaggerated (typical of caricature of course). I always remained eager to know how Jim was going to solve the new problems he had got himself into, but from which he always managed to escape.
my book, my brain and Microsoft Encarta >96 Encyclopaedia.
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