Morris Zapp, like all the rest of David Lodge’s characters in this novel, is a type. He is the quintessential American academic hotshot, who doubles as a typical male chauvinist. At work, Morris is a terror. The preeminent Jane Austen scholar, Morris’ one ambition is to write a series of commentaries on Jane Austen that will make all other efforts in the field useless. After Morris, no one will write any more books or articles about Austen, since Morris will have anticipated every possible contribution. Morris also wants to employ teams of graduate assistants to do a series of commentaries on every other author, until he has finally put a stop to literary criticism. This kind of grandiose ambition is typical of Morris, not only at the office but also in the bedroom, where his vigor and his desire to be the dominant male cause Desiree to complain that she “always felt like an engine on a test bed. Being, what do they call it, tested to destruction?”
Yet Morris is beset by his own success. Professionally, at age forty he has tasted all the meaningful accomplishments. On one level, he is justifiably satisfied with himself: “His needs were simple: a temperate climate, a good library, plenty of inviting ass around the place and enough money to keep him in cigars and liquor and to run a comfortable modern house and two cars.” His security begins to crumble, however, when he realizes that at forty he has gone about as far as he can expect to go, and when Desiree tires of her husband’s domineering personality and asks for a divorce, she adds a personal dimension to his nagging professional doubts. Lodge uses Morris to examine what happens to a man who has achieved a modern version of the American...
(The entire section is 702 words.)