Books: Lucky Jim & His Pals

The most astutely symbolical novel of igth century England was Dickens' Great Expectations. Young Pip. packing his bags for London to become a gentleman, fulfilled the dream image of a confident and ambitious middle class. Since 1954, an equally symbolic novel has come to stand for the small expectations and raddled nerves of null century Britain — and especially its middle-class intellectuals—under the Welfare State. The novel: Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim.

Its hero, James Dixon, is a barely competent provincial instructor in medieval history who has no desire to be a gentleman; he wants...

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