(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Eating People Is Wrong follows an academic year in the life of Stuart Treece, professor of English and head of the department at a provincial English university. Proceeding in a chronologically straightforward manner, the novel deals largely and successively with the individual social and personal situations in which Treece ineffectually tries to make his presence felt and his moral imperatives understood. What emerges is a comic yet sad portrait of Treece’s invariable failures: a postgraduate sherry party, an undergraduate tea, a botched driver’s test, and a fumbling attempt at sex with his colleague, Dr. Viola Masefield, among others. The novel deals not only with Treece’s at times nearly slapstick pratfalls and social as well as amorous and moral blunders but also with his thoughts about himself as he ponders his fate and that of his small world-his thoughts proving no more effectual than his actions. To a lesser extent, the novel deals with those characters, most notably Emma Fielding, Louis Bates, and Mr. Eborebelosa, whose circumstances parallel Treece’s in a number of ways. Were this an existential novel, these characters would experience the feeling of being de trop, but since Eating People Is Wrong is a variation on the British subgenre of the academic comedy of manners, of which Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim (1954) is perhaps the best-known example, Bradbury’s characters suffer the more homely plaint of feeling unwanted,...

(The entire section is 488 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Haffenden, John. Novelists in Interview, 1985.

Halio, Jay L. British Novelists Since 1960, 1983.

Ziegler, Heide, and Christopher Bigsby. The Radical Imagination and the Liberal Tradition, 1982.