The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

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.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Philip Swallow

Philip Swallow, a forty-year-old lecturer in English at the University of Rummidge, a Redbrick college in the English Midlands. At the start of the novel, he lacks confidence, is eager to please, and is very suggestible. Professionally, he lacks ambition and is relatively unknown in scholarly circles, with few publications; however, he is a superlative examiner of undergraduates. A faculty exchange takes him to the campus of the University of Euphoria in the United States and Euphoria’s Morris Zapp to Rummidge. Swallow finds his sexual drives rekindled as he has an affair with Melanie Byrd (unknown to him, Morris Zapp’s daughter by his first marriage) and with Zapp’s estranged wife, Désirée. He also becomes caught up in student protests on the American campus. He is revitalized and acquires self-confidence.

Morris Zapp

Morris Zapp, a tenured full professor at the University of Euphoria in the United States. He is also forty years old. He published five books (four on Jane Austen) before the age of thirty. His enthusiasm for research was largely a means to an end, and when he became tenured, his enthusiasm for scholarship waned. He is immensely self-confident and assertive, legendary for his sarcasm and intimidating to both students and colleagues. the faculty exchange takes him to a setting where his academic reputation does not count, his colleagues initially ignore him, and students are not impressed by him. His loneliness leads him to attach...

(The entire section is 621 words.)