Doing it by the book
There are several noteworthy undergraduates in literature. Do any of these sound familiar?
Sebastian Faulks’s eponymous workingclass prodigy suffers parental bereavement and is bullied at boarding school. But we really start to lose sympathy with him when we learn of his dastardly extracurricular activities while reading English at an “ancient university”.
Waugh’s indolent upper-crust undergrad in Brideshead Revisited shows academic promise but is so weighed down with family baggage he prefers a drink and a cuddle with his teddy bear Aloysius instead.
David Lodge’s povertystricken English student in The British Museum Is Falling Down is supposed to be working hard on his thesis about “long sentences”. But, in a modern resonance, he is too distracted by trying to make money.
Tom Wolfe’s heroine in I Am Charlotte Simmons leaves her small-town beginnings for fictional American Dupont University believing she will find a vibrant and inspiring intellectual world. Instead, she finds that the students are all majoring in alcohol, sex and social status.