Essay, Research Paper: One Fat Englishman

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1. One Fat English Man 2. The author of the novel is Kingsley Amis, copyright
1963. 3. Kingsley Amis was a British writer from England. 4. Major Characters
Roger Micheldene is the man the book focuses primarily upon. He is “a shortish
fat Englishman of forty (6)” and a publisher. Of the seven deadly sins Roger
considers himself to be gluttony, sloth and lust. He considers himself most
qualified in the sin of anger (8). He is so fat that his hips have fused
together and he is forced to wear a brace. He also drinks excessively and uses
Snuff. His drink of preference is gin with water added and no ice. He has a wife
in England, but still enjoys interludes with women. His character does not
change within the novel. He remains a selfish, fat, Englishman who is quick to
anger, is willing to cheat on his wife whenever possible and drinks heavily.
Thus he considered a round, fully developed, but static character. Through out
the novel he seems to be drawn by a need to receive love from women, although he
discounts their thoughts and general stature. Through all his encounters he
seeks love from Helene far more than the others. He feels he is a great man when
he conquerors her. Helene Bang was born in Denmark, but her parents brought her
to America when she was ten. She settles with her family in Idaho. When she was
twenty-one, while on a visit in Denmark, she met Ernst Bang. She married Ernst
and moved back to America with him. Although she was born in Denmark she
considers herself an American. She is a very attractive woman; many of the male
students at Budweiser find her attractive, too. She is a round character, but
still static. She lives a life endeared to her husband and son through out the
novel. Even in her affair at the end of the novel with Irving she still claims
she cannot lie to her husband. However, she confirms she is not in love with
Roger, “when I go to bed with you I [simply] feel less sorry for you (185).”
Irving Macher is a “brilliant young Jewish kid from New York” who attends
Budweiser. (9). He is the author of a bizarre novel, Blikie Heaven, which Joe
asked Roger to critique and publish. Physically he is described by Roger as
“brown-haired…freckled, with a mild crew-cut…with nothing noticeable about
him but a pair of restless grey eyes (11).” He is a round character; Amis
develops him through various encounters with Roger, but static also. He is
Roger’s antagonist. Every time Roget tries to win the love of Helene he steps
in to mess things up. For example, he steals Roger’s lecture notes before
Roger is to give a speech before a few hundred men, is apart of a trick that
involves a young lady biting Roger’s neck and takes Helene to New York. He is
a young who is ready to argue, but also willing to admit his weaknesses. 5.
Minor Characters Ernst Bang is a Germanic philologist, who was originally from
Denmark. He moved to America after taking a leave from Copenhagen, a university
he taught at in Denmark, and received a year’s appointment at Budweiser. He is
married to Helene. In Roger’s mind Ernst is the only thing standing between
him and Helene. He is young and attractive. He is also very trusting, and does
not suspect Roger is having an affair with Helene. Arthur Bang is the son of
Helene and Ernst. He attends a farm school and has especially high aptitudes and
study habits. He is important because he spoils a lot of Roger’s romantic
plans. For example, on Halloween Helene uses the excuse that Arthur would be
home too soon from school for the two to carry out a physical part of the affair
(57). Mollie Atkins is married to Strode Atkins, who considers himself an
Englishman. The two seem happily married. However, she has numerous affairs,
including one with Roger. She is drunk one of the last times that she sees
Roger. Father Colgate is a priest at Budweiser. He is a flamboyantly handsome
and muscular man of thirty, dressed in well-tailored clerical garb (88). He has
a serious concern for Roger’s current state of being and worries over his
soul. Father Colgate is added to the novel to symbolize the constant battle
Roger has between what’s right, God’s way, and what he does. 6. Three Main
Settings Joe Derlanger’s home is one of the most important settings within the
work. It is here that Roger is reunited with Helene and also has his first
physical encounter with Mollie Atkins. Roger arranges to meet with Mollie at a
later time and to call Helene. It is here, too, that the group freely speaks
about English men and bash on the British. For example, in a charade game they
played the group acted out the word “Brutishly”. The whole gang, including
Helene, managed to make Roger feel degraded (25). The author uses this
moderately neutral atmosphere to acquaint the characters in a relatively short
time span and allows Roger’s mind to wander, divulging the past. The Bangs’
home is where Helene and Roger carry out their affair. The author specifically
uses this setting because he is pointing out the fact Roger cares for no one but
himself. Ernst trusts Roger enough to let him stay with his family, and Roger
repays him by sleeping with his wife. This also puts Helene in an awkward
situation. She is forced to deal with hiding the truth from her son, too.
Despite the awkward conditions the two manage to continue with their passionate
interludes. The atmosphere advances the plot in that Roger uses the home as a
base and continues experiencing the various aspects of America and women while
always returning to the room located next to Helene and Ernst’s. Atkins’
apartment in New York is a setting that the author first introduces at Joe’s
party, but is not an intricate part of the novel until close to the end. Strode
Atkins offers Irving a key to the apartment as a refuge for the young man.
Irving takes Helene to the apartment. They sleep together and spend a night out
on the town. This setting is used as a conflict point between Irving and Roger
and between Roger and Helene. Roger is angry that Irving took Helene to New York
not because he was worried for her safety but because he was jealous and angry.
He traveled all the way to New York to catch them at the apartment, but did not
plan what he’d do. He instantly becomes angry with Irving, wanting to pounce
on him, but is stopped by Helene. Irving comments, “I’m not only a coward,
I’m also a liar and a thief and I value worldly success too much…In any
event sticks and stones may break my bones, only we’re agreed sticks and
stones are out, and words will never hurt me, no words you’re likely to think
of uttering anyhow…(182).” Robert also faces a confrontation with Helene.
She asks him to go away, and tells him she has never felt the same kind of love
for him that she has felt for her. This is a good setting for this to occur
because no one else is around to stop the dispute. This is a good setting for
Amis to use for a final battle between Irving and Roger, fairly neutral ground.
7.Plot Synopsis The novel begins before an evening party at the estate of Joe
Derlanger. Roger Micheldene and Joe are discussing the guests what will arrive
shortly. Here the author sets the scene as being relaxed and non
confrontational. In the initial scenes the reader is acquainted with most of the
novel’s characters. Also the reader learns Roger is only in the United States
for sixteen days. He hadn’t seen Helene for nearly eighteen months. The past
begins to unravel at Joe’s party. Roger remembers the last time he tried to
make “verbal love” to Helene, and how Arthur interrupted them. The group
then decides to go swimming. Roger is too embarrassed of his obesity to swim
with the others. Instead he sits neat the side of the pool and tries to enjoy
the Helene’s physical appearance. After dinner that evening, he has a chance
to speak with Helene while the group is playing a game and she gives him her
phone number. Less than an hour later Roger is attracted to Mollie Atkins and
sets up a place to rendezvous with her, too. Roger goes to the Helene’s home
and the two carry on their affair (56). She eventually walks away from his lap
with the excuse that she has a telephone call to make. She then works in the
kitchen and tells Roger no more can happen that day because Arthur will be home
from school soon. Roger says outright, “Let’s go to bed.” She says no
because it’s Halloween and the school will probably let out early. The reader
is given a new look at Roger. He is not simply upset with the fact Arthur will
be home early, but with the fact Helene did not tell him this earlier. He is
upset that he spent the whole day with her and traveled all the way to her home
thinking that they’d “go to bed” but thinks the entire day was a waste of
his time because they did not. This shows Roger is not solely interested in
spending time with Helene, but in receiving sexual pleasure. Arthur then returns
home, followed by Ernst. The tension between Arthur and Roger is evident during
their initial conversation and the Scrabble game that the two play together.
Roger is so upset that he could not carry out his plans with Helene and dislikes
Arthur to the point that he calls Mollie Atkins and sets a time for them to
meet. They met at Mollie’s shop and then ventured into a forest to be alone.
They have a picnic and “sleep together” on the grass. Mollie tells Roger how
dissatisfied she is with her marriage, but that she stays with him because she
has no money or skills (84). While they’re making love Roger is disturbed by
the turtles that are watching them. The next day he travels to Budweiser and
speaks with Father Colgate. There his entire plan is to trick the father into
telling him all about his religious beliefs and then scrutinize them. As a true
Englishman Roger states he is from the Roman Catholic Church. The conflict that
took place between the two was rather large and not subdues until Irving stepped
in and told Roger that he, Roger, is too scripted in his thoughts and
conversations. After overhearing the conversation between Roger and the father
Irving states, “pretty competent, sir, but overly scripted, wouldn’t you
say? A little lacking in spontaneity? (92)” Roger then regretfully confronted
Irving and was sidetracked. Once again, Irving is Roger’s adversary. Amis
spends some time diving into Roger’s psyche and showing the reader Roger’s
full view on America. As Roger looked out the window of a building at Budweiser
he commented: “For sophomores or seniors or whatever they were of Budweiser
College, Pa., they seemed not hopelessly barbarous. None of them was chewing gum
or smoking a ten-cent cigar or wearing a raccoon coat or drinking Coca-Cola or
eating a hamburger or sniffing cocaine, or watching television or mugging anyone
or, perforce, driving a Cadillac (90).” Amis is speaking through Roger’s
thoughts and satirizing American culture. Next Roger is supposed to speak before
a large group of people about the publishing industry. However he is very
distressed to find that his research and carefully formulated speech is missing.
However, the committee still wants him to speak, they try and talk him into
giving an impromptu speech but he will not. He wanted to speak marvelously to
impress Helene, but refused to speak impromptu out of anger over the thought
that Arthur had stolen his work and placed a comic book in its place. He
comments, “If you think I’m going out there to give those people a
fifty-minute impromptu chat you’re doomed to disappointment. They might not be
able to tell the difference between that and a serious lecture but I can. I
won’t do it (100).” Roger then storms back to the Bangs’ home and accuses
Arthur. Helene defends his son from the accusations, “Let me have a look at
that thing…But this is “Crazy” magazine, not a comic book. Kids don’t
read this-not kids of Arthur’s age. It’s way beyond them. It’s far to
sophisticated (105).” In Roger’s rage he proclaims, “Arthur’s remarkably
intelligent.” The matter is settled when Ernst turns to the back page of the
magazine and reads the inscription, “Property of Rho Epsilon Chi Fraternity:
not to be removed from reading room.” Roger then left, got drunk, and then
returned to his room in the Bangs’ home only to hear Ernst and Helene together
in the other room. Roger woke the next morning and prepared for the evening’s
party on a Barge that night. In the afternoon, before the party, Helene drops
Arthur off at the zoo with a neighbor so Roger and her may have a few hours
alone to continue their affair. During which time Roger receives a phone call
from Irving, at which time he confesses to having taken Roger’s materials.
Roger is so concerned with this change in developments that he puts his time
with Helene on hold and attempts to take action against Irving. Helen is unhappy
with this and simply leaves Roger. That night Roger Irving and a young woman
play a trick on Roger. Roger ends up with bite marks on his neck, Mollie knowing
that he was ready to have an affair with a young woman and Roger left humiliated
in the dark on the island. Once again Irving catches Roger off guard. The next
day Helene left home without telling Ernst where she went and simply put things
on order for her family. Ernst and Roger talk about where she could be; the
whole time Ernst does not suspect Roger could be having an affair with Helene.
Roger figures he knows where Helene is, with Irving. He gets a hold of Strode
Atkins’ apartment key and taxis to New York to find them. In New York he finds
the apartment with no one inside. So he waits for a while and then searched the
town for them. Eventually Roger catches them. However, he is caught off guard,
too. Helen tells him that she has never really loved him and only slept with him
out of pity. She orders him to leave and states she doesn’t want to have
anything more to do with him (181). This obviously hurts Roger, but there’s
nothing he can say in response. The following day he leaves for England. Ernst
and Helene are reunited and all seems back to normal. After sixteen days of
nothing he returns to his wife the same man as when he arrived in America.
Although Helene flatly said she’s through with him and Mollie won’t sleep
with him again, he still has a hope that they will get together during his next
stay in America. 8. Conflicts A major conflict within the novel is Roger’s
lack of self worth due to the fact he is fat. This is evident in the fact that
he believes he is too fat to take of more than his jacket on a hot day and his
belief that his “mammary development would have been acceptable only if he
could have shed half his weight as well as changing his sex (7).” His
obsession with drinking also has to do with his lack of self-esteem. He is a
womanizer and drinks when he feels down and depressed, nearly all the time.
Another conflict is the fact Roger sees himself as a proper Englishman and does
not agree with most of America’s customs and its abuse of the English
language. “He normally made a point of not conforming to American usage or
taste in the smallest particular (7).” He has a tough time submitting to the
different language that Americans use and their way of thinking. One night he
got into a deep conversation with a cab driver while drunk. The cab driver
responded, “Your basic objection to Jack Kennedy appears to be that he is an
American. Don’t think I don’t sympathies, but unfortunately we have this law
here that says the President of the United States has to be a citizen of the
Republic. Unreasonable, I grant you, but there it is. Dura lex sed lex, old man,
which is Iroquois for “Why don’t you go back to your island and stay
there”. Good-night (108).” There is also a very evident conflict-taking
place between Roger and God. It is obvious God does not agree with Roger’s
lifestyle. However, Roger chooses to call upon the Lord at times that pleases
him. One of his chronic difficulties was reconciling his belief in the
importance of priests and the Church with his apathy towards most of the former
and aversion from most of the doctrines and practices of the latter, a conflict
also to be seen in his relations with the Omnipotent (89). He continues in such
fashion by stating religion “Superhuman only on scale (91).” Obviously Roger
does not want to bow before a force that does not permit him to have the kind of
fun he wants to. Father Colgate also has a conflict between himself and Roger.
He comments, “In my calling one very quickly develops what might almost be
called an instinct whereby he comes to detect infallibly the signs of a soul at
variance with God. You, my son, are very disturbed…A man doesn’t act like a
child unless his is hurting him. Your soul is hurting you, Mr. Micheldene.
Won’t you allow me to hear your confession, my son? Soon. The sooner the
better (101).” This is truly a problem and disappointment for Father Colgate
because he genuinely cares for Roger’s soul. The real conflict for Father
Colgate arises when Roger finally asks the father to hear his confessions but is
insincere in his repentance. The father must make the call as to whether or not
Roger’s repenting is valid. There is a conflict between Roger and women in
general. He has been married at least two times and has not managed to remain
faithful. He uses women for sexual pleasure, caring only for his own feelings,
and then comments on how silly women are. He does not like the power they have
over men nor their ability to change men. 9. Major Themes One major theme within
the novel is the search for self worth. Roger tries to find his worth in
meaningless relationships and alcohol because he is so insecure about himself as
an individual. This is parallel to the fact that he is fat. I think most people
have the same type of problem. They feel one aspect of themselves is so hideous
that they try to cover it up inside by lashing out on others or simply using
others to feel good. Amis is pointing this out through Roger’s actions and
relationships. Besides that I have a difficult time finding themes within the
work. I saw how Amis continually pointed out how lust conquered a man and
woman’s sense of right and wrong. However, Helene states she cannot lie to
Ernst about where she is. Obviously her entire life is a lie because he believes
her to be faithful. Perhaps Amis is also trying to point out the fact that
things are not always as they seem. People seem to have good jobs and money, but
that doesn’t account for happiness, as in Joe’s unhappiness with his life
and sudden outbursts of anger. Also he sort of hints at the fact that men are
only out to get what they want and is ready to squash any one who stands in
their way. For example, Roger is angrier with Irving over the fact that he stole
Helene for the weekend then the fact Irving humiliated him so many times.
Overall, I believe Amis wrote very little moral value into the novel, nor did he
incorporate major themes. It seems to me the novel is simply a satire about
American life. Amis also uses outrageous instances to make us fell sorry for the
fat Englishman that is really undeserving of pity because he is so mean and
nasty. 10. My Favorite Scene My favorite scene within the novel is quite simple,
but I find it humorous. Roger is at Helene’s home and her son Arthur just
returned home from school. Arthur is unhappy with Roger being there and Roger is
just as unhappy that the child’s presence spoiled his afternoon plans with
Helene. However, Roger must make an attempt to show Helene that he is
compassionate by trying to befriend Arthur. After a one sided conversation with
Arthur, Roger is about to give up. Then Arthur asked Roger to play scrabble with
him. The two sat down to play and needless to say Roger drew letters from the
bag that offered no chance making a word for quite a while. Arthur, a small
child with a smaller grasp on language than Roger, was winning. Eventually Ernst
came home and Roger was stuck playing the game in front of both Helene and
Roger. “The humiliation of being routed at a scrabble game by a seven-year-old
seemed destined to pass by Roger (66).” Thus, Roger asked to resign from the
game, but Arthur informed him that resigning is not allowed. Thus, they were
forced to continue playing. Arthur’s next word was N-I-T-E-R. Roger looked at
the word curiously and said “Niter? What’s that supposed to mean?” Arthur
ironically said, “You know, like a one-nighter.” To which Roger responded
“No such word” and challenged Arthur. Arthur opened a dictionary and read
“Niter, a Potassium nitrate. A supposed nitrous element.” Roger still argued
with Arthur and said the correct spelling is N-I-T-R-E. When Arthur shook his
head Roger angrily stammered, “I…But that is a bloody American
dictionary.” To which Arthur responded, “This is bloody America.” I found
this quite humorous because I could easily visualize the scene. A large man and
a small child playing a game, the older man losing and then the child’s
retort. I also enjoyed the fact Arthur then quoted Roger’s new score of
“minus 21.” 11. The Significance of the title The title of the novel is One
Fat Englishman. The novel is named this because its main character is an
Englishman, Roger, who is considerably overweight, fat. 12. The author’s point
of view The novel’s point of view is third person omniscient. This allows the
reader to know not only what Roger is thinking and feeling but what others are,
too. Thus, the reader does not simply see everything from Roger’s perspective.
Also this allows the reader to understand more of what is going on between and
in scenes.

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