Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Margaret Peel in Lucky Jim

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis is my all time favorite novel, and I'm fairly certain it will never relinquish that spot. Anyway, just read it again, as I often do in March, a month in which I always need some comfort, and enjoyed it as much as I always do.

But I'm not here to talk about that: I'm here to talk about the character of Margaret Peel in the novel. She is the neurotic lecturer that our hero Jim Dixon has become entangled with, despite his many misgivings. She is needy, manipulative, unsure of herself, self-conscious, but also somewhat kind and intelligent. She is a character in the novel that I become more and more interested in each time I read the book. Even though she is made out to be a ridiculous fool (and that was Kingsley Amis' intention -- I wouldn't suggest otherwise), I think she is also a tragic figure, someone who is just not comfortable enough with herself to make it in the world.

Margaret is based on Monica Jones (her full name is Margaret Monica Beale Jones), a lecturer who was a long-time friend and sometime lover of Amis' own best friend Philip Larkin. It's a cruel portrait, and I wonder how Larkin felt about it. But the bottom line is that Margaret (more so than her foil Christine Callaghan) is such a well-written character that she takes on a life of her own. I think she's one of the great characterizations in the novel.

Larkin and Monica Jones on one of their holidays


  1. I don't know if this would be some Sophie's Choice thing, and maybe you have already done it and I forget, but maybe you could do an entry on your top ten favorite books? I know I'd be interested in hearing what they are.

  2. I'd be interested in a top 2 books of all time. How about it Pete?

  3. According to Hitch, Larkin egged-on Amis' depiction of Margaret/Monica.

  4. Helen MacInnis named a character "Margaret Peel" in a hilarious send-up of pretentious literary types called "Rest and be Thankful." when I saw this description of the character from Lucky Jim, I wondered if HM was thinking of Larkin and Amis when she named her (lovable and not neurotic) character Margaret Peel.