Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
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 the novel, it must be kept in mind that many of these judgments are Jim’s and not necessarily Amis’s.
Interestingly, the only rooms that are described in detail are those in which the Summer Ball takes place. These walls are decorated with historical, martial illustrations that Jim, a reluctantly aspiring professor of history, cannot (or will not) identify. However, these murals are fitting, in a mock epic sort of way, since the Summer Ball marks the first important battle between Jim and Bertrand Welch for the favor of Christine. It also brings Jim to the attention of his “fairy-godfather,” Gore-Urquhart.
Welch home. Suburban dwelling of Professor Welch, the head of the university’s history department. Also never completely described, it seems full of culturally pretentious bric-a-brac and trashy, trendy artworks. A statue of Buddha that adorns Jim’s guest room so disgusts him that he cannot name it but can only describe it (“a small china effigy, . . . in a squatting position, of a well-known Oriental religious figure”). Although Jim hates the place, particularly after suffering through an unpleasant weekend there, he finds himself drawn to it because of Welch’s importance to his future and the presence there of Christine Callaghan.
*London. Great Britain’s capital city is Jim’s ultimate goal in his dream of escape, which he achieves upon becoming Gore-Urquhart’s secretary. Jim’s own name (Dixon sounds like “Dick’s son”) contains a partial allusion to a previous young man from the provinces, Dick Whittington, who dreamed of going to London and succeeding. Curiously, London is never fully visualized in Jim’s thoughts, although he admits having gone there perhaps a dozen times; it appears only as a strangely two-dimensional vision of chimney pots surmounted by a bank of clouds. This deflationary image is in keeping with the general tone of the book. At the end of the novel, Jim admits that the one section of London he will not live in is Chelsea, presumably because of its reputation as a neighborhood of artists.