Social Climbing Heroes

In the current issue of the Anthony Powell Society Newsletter (Autumn 2016, No. 64) Simon Barnes has written the lead article in which he compares social climbers in three novels: Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time and Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim.  In each case, there is a malevolent climber (Rex Mottram, Kenneth Widmerpool and Bertrand Welch) as well as a benevolent one (Charles Ryder, Nick Jenkins and Jim Dixon). The reader is encouraged to despise the bad guys and identify with the goodies even though they are all striving toward the same goal–to better themselves socially. Waugh manages a few scenes where the climbing of Rex and Ryder clash–e.g., the dinner in Paris and the hand of Julia/possession of Brideshead Castle. Ryder tops Rex in both cases only to lose everything in the end (compensated perhaps by religious conversion). Similar themes are developed in the interplay between the climbers in the other novels. 

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