Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Redbrick university

Redbrick university. Unnamed provincial university at which Dixon lectures in history. Kingsley Amis first conceived the idea for Lucky Jim while visiting his friend Philip Larkin at the University of Leicester. He realized that the fictional portrayal of such an insular and parochial community had not previously been attempted. Before Lucky Jim, novelistic treatments of English university life had involved either Oxford or Cambridge, but with the return of so many soldiers after World War II, both as pupils and teachers, provincial universities, commonly referred to by their construction of red brick (as opposed to the dreaming, granite spires of “Oxbridge”), became much more significant in the intellectual life of the country.

Originally called Hamberton, Jim’s unnamed university is fairly generic, as is the city in which it is placed, unspecified by region and minimally described. Amis borrowed one symbolic detail from the University of Leicester: its location across the street from a cemetery. Otherwise, the campus is strictly portrayed in functional terms; it has a library, common rooms, laboratories, but nothing seemingly worth describing in anything but generalities. At the end of the novel, the campus does not even inspire Jim to take one last look when he leaves. Although the university is a fitting location for the “crappy culture” that Amis later noted as an important element in...

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Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Throughout Lucky Jim, Amis is concerned with the restructuring of British society which took place after World War II. Some of the...

(The entire section is 374 words.)

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Lucky Jim is a conventional novel; its narration is third person, its development is chronological, and its style is a conventional...

(The entire section is 157 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The 1957 adaptation, which starred Ian Carmichael, Terry Thomas, and Hugh Griffith, focused on Jim's hijinks and antics that inevitably lead...

(The entire section is 22 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bradford, Richard. Kingsley Amis. London: Edward Arnold, 1989. A brief but incisive volume, in which Bradford argues that most critics have failed to grasp the complex nature and intentions of Amis’ work. Concludes by labeling him a “comic misfit” inspired by the novelist and essayist G. K. Chesterton and the poet A. E. Housman.

Gardner, Philip. Kingsley Amis. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Dated because it does not cover Amis’ entire career, but still a reliable introduction to his earlier novels, stories, and poetry.

McDermott, John. Kingsley Amis: An English Moralist. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. An important study emphasizing not only the moral seriousness of Amis’ work but also its generally underrated intellectual and aesthetic range. McDermott examines why Lucky Jim was so successful upon publication and why it remains popular.

Moseley, Merritt. Understanding Kingsley Amis. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993. A basic, accessible survey, in which the author describes Lucky Jim as “one of the key books of the English 1950’s” and goes on to place it in the context of Amis’ subsequent work. Includes a good bibliography.

Salwak, Dale. Kingsley Amis: Modern Novelist. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992. An extended, sympathetic biographical and critical study written with Amis’ assistance. Lucky Jim is considered independently and in the context of Amis’ subsequent development, particularly in relation to the dark later novel Jake’s Thing (1978). Salwak declares that Dixon is so appealing because his adventures allow us to “break free from well-ordered, sensible lives.”