Kingsley AmisÆs 1953 novel Lucky Jim is a book meant to make us laugh at the absurdities of many of the people that we make while at the same time assuring us that there the small and downtrodden can come out ahead. In this novel, he tells a tale that we all want to hear, which is that sometimes the good guys win just because they are the good guys.
Amis, born in 1922, has made his focus as a novelist the creation of a humorous but highly critical look at British society, especially in the period following the end of World War II in 1945. Born in London, England, he was educated at Saint John's College, at the University of Oxford and his first novel and the subject of this paper, Lucky Jim was a bitingly satirical story of an unheroic young college instructor.
The book influenced a group of British playwrights and novelists who were known as the Angry Young Men because of their rebellious and critical attitude toward postwar British society. Amis would take up the same themes and the angry tone in the 1955 That Uncertain Feeling and Take a Girl Like You, published five years later. His later books have actually been somewhat gentler, such as the 1986 The Old Devils, a humorous look at middle-class Welsh people and the 1990 The Folks That Live on the Hill, a satirical portrayal of middle age, retirement, and quirky family life. But in Lucky Jim the face that Amis turns to his readers is angry and defiant, although this is a defiance marked by a lack of cynicism, and the in-the-end-truly-heroic Dixon triumphs above the less than worthy people in his world.
The book, in addition to being an indictment of the British academic system of a certain era (although one does wonder, perhaps as a reflection of AmisÆs own cynicism, how much it might actually have changed in the intervening decades) is also an affirmation of learning.
One of AmisÆs redeeming skills as a writer is that he is funny. Not in the way that movies, for exa...