Tribulation and Comedy in Lucky Jim
Lawson Winder
Mrs. Wilson
Friday, November 22, 1996
Tribulation and Comedy in Lucky Jim
Despite misfortunes, comedy possesses the ability to elevate one\'s mood in distressing or unhappy times. The sweet flavour comedy adds to life makes many situations much more palatable. In Kingsley Amis\' Lucky Jim, the Jim Dixon character is cast into unfavourable relations with other characters who make his existence quite trying. Jim\'s involvement with Margaret is marked by his desire to see it end. His association with Professor Welch incessantly lands him in a disagreeable position. Moreover, Jim does nothing to amend this, and the reader becomes frustrated with Jim\'s inaction, and his ready acceptance to let things carry on as they are. However, Jim\'s extraordinary comic sense continually lightens the severity of his predicament and makes living with his problems much easier.
Jim Dixon\'s relationship with Margaret is the source of considerable anxiety and distress; yet, he dodges the need to remedy this. Jim sees Margaret as a girl possessing "minimal prettiness" (Amis, 1953, p. 105), a person who is unenjoyable to spend time with, and whom he knows is manipulative. At the same time, he feels compelled to continue seeing her. Although it is not clear, his behaviour seems to be partly derived from a tragic sense that beautiful girls are not for him. As well, it seems to come from an unprecedented, yet noble sense of duty combined with pity; and a belief that he hasn\'t "got the guts to leave her" (Amis, 1953, 201). Essentially, Jim lacks confidence. In noting Margaret\'s deceit, one observes from the inception of their friendship, that Margaret is manoeuvring Jim into something he is not aware he is being involved: "It had seemed only natural for a female lecturer to ask a junior...male colleague up to her place for coffee, and no more civil to accept. Then suddenly he\'d become the man who was \'going around\' with Margaret, and somehow competing with this Catchpole" (Amis, 1953, p. 10). Margaret\'s imposition of this title on Jim without his taking part, demonstrates her crafty nature. In addition, Margaret\'s incorporation of another man into the pageantry, who is supposedly in pursuit of Jim\'s title, is unquestionable evidence of Margaret\'s manipulation of Jim. Then, at the Summer Ball, Carol Goldsmith affirms this opinion: "Throw her [Margaret] a life belt and she\'ll pull you under" (Amis, 1953, p.121). Simply, Carol is saying that when Jim is "civil to accept" Margaret\'s invitations, he is setting himself up to be used, which is exactly what she will do,
she [Margaret] feigns sexual avidity to entice, then denounce Jim...she shows no sympathy when he is in trouble with the Welches and uses her knowledge of his plight to coerce him...and she exploits him by manipulating him into paying for everything when they go out, even though he cannot afford it and she can" (Salwak, 1992, 27).
Furthermore, it is extremely frustrating in that Dixon makes no attempt at freeing himself from this laborious relationship, which he recognizes as antagonistic, "Dixon fought hard to drive away the opinion that, both as actress and script writer, she [Margaret] was doing rather well" (Amis, 1953, 76). Jim notes with precision that Margaret\'s behaviour is theatrical, and, is not natural, but planned ahead of time to secure a certain response; however, he chooses to ignore this. To make matters even worse for Jim, the time he spends with Margaret is always drab and displeasing, and as a result, he dreads encounters with her. For example, he is often "averting his attention from the thought that Margaret would be there" (Amis, 1953, p.204). Despite his apprehensions about meeting with Margaret, Dixon again makes no effort to relieve himself of her acquaintance, "in a variety of tones, [Jim] recognizes, but fails to act on, a discrepancy between what he ought to do or wants to do and what he in fact does" (McDermott, 1989, p.63). As a recurring theme throughout the book, Jim\'s failure to take action against Margaret is very disconcerting and leaves the reader feeling pity for him.
Much like Jim\'s involvement with Margaret, his association with Professor Welch is very discouraging. Ironically, Jim does not want to teach for Welch,