Changing Places – How Zapp Morris and Philip Swallow’s Life Changed
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1 Morris Zapp
1.1 Morris Zapp at the beginning of ‘Changing places’
At the beginning of the novel Morris Zapp is extremely self-confident even arrogant, sarcastic, vain and feels superior when it comes to his work. He has a certain killer instinct that allows him to get what he wants and is a highly successful Professor at the Euphoric State University, whose career began very early as he already started publishing articles when he was still in graduate school. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 15)
‘Zapp was the man who had published articles in PMLA while still in graduate school; who, enviably offered his first job by Euphoric State, had stuck out for twice the going salary, and got it; who had published five fiendishly clever books (four of them on Jane Austen) by the time he was thirty and achieved the rank of a full professor at the same precocious age.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 15)
Though because of his great achievements when it comes to his career he has no aim anymore and is in a way depressed and also starts questioning the meaning of his life, as he feels that he has achieved everything he could achieve already. (Ibis p. 43f)
He could only significantly increase his salary either by moving to some god-awful place in Texas or the Mid-West where no one in his right mind would go for a thousand dollars a day, or by switching to administration, looking for a college Presidents job somewhere, which in the present state of the nation’s campuses was a through ticket to an early grave. At the age of forty, in short, Morris Zapp could think of nothing he wanted to achieve that he hadn’t achieved already, and this depressed him. (Lodge 1975, p. 44)
His reputation is already so well established that he believes he could only damage it with further research instead of adding to it. On top of that he is unsatisfied with his body as well as his sex life. (Cf. Lodge 1075, p. 44)
His life begins to change however when he is more or less forced to partake in the exchange program by his wife Désirée who wants a divorce. While Zapp would not mind parting ways with Désirée, he does not want to lose his children because of that and he is sure that Désirée would get custody of them. Zapp, who has already been through a divorce before, knows what that would mean for him in regards to his children. He would see them only sporadically and it would take a lot of money, especially since Désirée considers moving to New York, a town he doesn’t like. He begs her to reconsider and in the end she agrees to a compromise. He will move out for half a year and she wouldn’t file the divorce papers yet. As such he ends up on his flight to Rummidge, even though he expects he will not enjoy it in the least. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 39ff)
‘He felt it in his bones that he wasn’t going to enjoy England: he would be lonely and bored, all the more so because he had taken a vow not to be unfaithful to Désirée, just to annoy her; and it was the worst possible place to carry on his research.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 47)
1.2 Morris Zapp’s first few weeks in England
Zapp certainly does not enjoy his stay in England at first. He is not able to find a room that comes up to his standard and as such he has to make do with the apartment he finds in the house of Dr O’Shea, which he takes because of its central heating, which ends up in further disappointment. (Cf. lodge, p. 57)
When he visits the Rummidge English Department for the first time he leaves a bad first impression as he is first seen laughing so hard at the notice board, which is full of handwritten notes and lacks any sort of system, that the secretary believes he is having a fit. He in turn thinks she is nervous and jumpy. She is also unable to help him when it comes to anything useful about his teaching programme and no other teacher is around as he arrived during holiday time. He finds a letter from Swallow but nothing helpful otherwise. (Cf. Lodge, p. 59ff) In order to work on his commentary on Jean Austen’s work he comes into his temporary office on most days and initially is glad about the silence and privacy he has in England but soon enough finds it oppressive. When the faculty finally begins to come back he expects to be welcomed and for others to introduce themselves, however they seem to avoid him. Then, after he decides to finally make a move, they begin to acknowledge him, so he has no reason to introduce himself and talk with them. He ends up feeling isolated. (Cf. Lodge, p. 69f)
‘Morris felt himself cracking under this treatment. His vocal organs began to deteriorate from disuse – on the rare occasions when he spoke, his own voice sounded strange and hoarse to his ears. He paced in his office like a prisoner in his cell, wondering what he had done to provoke this treatment. Did he have halitosis? Was he suspected of working for the CIA?’ (Lodge, p. 70)
The radio and the colour TV are a bad distraction. And the only one who actually talks with him is Dr O’Shea, who comes to visit him and drink his alcohol and watch comedy programs on his rent TV. (Cf. Lodge, p.71ff)
His isolation is disrupted by Hilary Swallow, who comes by his office once in order to get a book for Swallow. Their first meeting is anything but ideal as he drops a cigar on the rug and is looking for it, but stops his search when he burns his hand on it. Hilary then continues his search, as it’s her husband’s rug that would get destroyed. Because she does not answer any questions she deems to personal and also does not invite him to dinner due to her husband’s absence, he thinks she’s an ‘uptight bitch’. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 85ff)
Shortly after his first meeting with Hilary his life takes a turn for the better again as Gordon Masters, the Head of the Rummidge English Department, comes to his office and invites him to refreshments.
‘Evidently the return of Professor Masters was the signal for which the rest of the faculty had been waiting. It was as if some obscure taboo had restrained them from introducing themselves before their chief had formally received him into his tribe. Now, in the Senior Common Room, they hurried forward and clustered around Morris’s chair, smiling and chattering, pressing upon him cups of tea and chocolate cookies, asking him about his journey, his health, his work in progress, offering him belated advice about accommodation and discreetly interpreting the strangled utterances of Gordon Masters for his benefit.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 89)
In the evening of the same day O’Shea asks if Bernadette, an Irish girl who does all the house labour, could watch TV with them. A little while later he leaves when a help call comes, and Zapp ends up driving him, as Dr O’Shea’s car does not start. For Zapp this kind of behaviour is so unusual that it even leaves him puzzled.
‘He cast his mind back over the day – helping Mrs Swallow look for her husband’s book, letting the Irish kid watch TV, driving O’Shea around to his patients – and wondered what had come over him. Some creeping English disease of being nice, was it? He would have to watch himself.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 93)
A while later he even feels guilty because Bernadette gets hit after being caught reading a copy of Playboy, he had given her. The next morning he gives her a pound as he became aware that she cleaned his room. She misunderstands and offers him sex, but he declines, even though he normally would have taken up any such offer. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 104ff)
Instead of the offer he treats himself to a night in London, where he visits a strip club for the first time ever. Instead of having a great time there however, he has to wait in the cold and even comes to the conclusion that ‘he had made a terrible mistake, but he wasn’t going to admit it.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 113) When the striper finally arrives, he recognises Mary, the girl who sat besides him on his flight to England. She was pregnant at that time and wanted to abort the child. She is still pregnant though, when Zapp invites her to his hotel for drinks. (Cf. Lodge 1975, 114f) In the end he even asks Hilary to help Mary, because she turned up at O’Shea’s and the man believed she was his responsibility. (Cf., Lodge 1975 p. 148f)
Around the same time Zapp discovers a four year old review by an anonymous source about an article he wrote, which upsets him greatly as he apparently is not used to critique.
‘Imagine receiving a poison-pen letter, or an obscene phone call or discovering that a hired assassin has been following you about the streets all day with a gun aimed at the middle of your back. I mean the shock of finding some source of malice in the world directed specifically at you, without being able to identify it or account for it. Because this guy really wanted to hurt.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 126)
Later he finds the newspaper with his own article on the toilet at the Swallow’s place, after he invited himself for dinner when he had brought the book Swallow wanted. In that article all the lines that were used in the review were marked as such Zapp is convinced that Swallow wrote that article out of spite. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 134) As he later discovers that Swallow lives with his daughter Melanie and had an affair with her, he comes to think Swallow wants to hurt him. ‘Having assassinated my academic character in the TLS, he proceeds to screw my daughter. That figures.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 142)
1.3 The rest of Morris Zapp’s stay in England
Things start to look up for Morris Zapp when he is suggested to become a mediator between students and the administration of the university as there had been some problems and students had organised sit-ins. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 165) He easily resolves these problems and it changes the others’ perspective of him. ‘[…] since his success in ending the sit-in Morris had become a well-known and respected man-about-campus’ (Lodge 1975, p. 210) He had moved into the office of Gordon Masters, since he requested a phone line as well as a secretary to help him after he became the mediator. That along with the fact that Gordon Masters had resigned leads the secretary to come to him when there are problems instead of the acting head of the English Department.
‘[…] but in the meantime the Departmental Secretary, conditioned to refer all problems, inquiries and decisions to Masters, had begun to bring them, as though compelled by a deep-seated homing instinct, to him, Morris Zapp, although Rupert Sutcliffe was supposed to be Acting Head of the Department. In fact Sutcliffe himself was inclined to come to Morris with oblique appeals for advice and approval, and other members of the staff too.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 213)
Even the Vice-Chancellor asks for his opinion, as is the case when it comes to the question about who will get a promotion to Senior Lectureships which could go to either Robin Dempsey or Philip Swallow. Despite his dislike of Philip Swallow and the obvious difference in research and publication he in the end recommends Philip Swallow because of Hilary.
‘It wasn’t, after all, only Swallow’s happiness and prosperity that were at stake here. Hilary and the children were also involved, and for their welfare he felt a warm concern. A rise for Swallow meant more bread for the whole family.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 222)
Later on the same day, after he’d been chased through the hexagon by Gordon Masters, the Vice-Chancellor even asks him to apply for the Chair of English. This surprises Zapp and he thinks the staff would not like that, the Vice-Chancellor disagrees with that believe.
‘On the contrary, my dear fellow, all the members of the English Department who have been sounded out on the subject suggested your name. I don’t say there may not be something of the better-the-devil-you-know attitude behind it, but obviously you’ve impressed them as someone capable of running the Department efficiently.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 232)
Because of this and the changes in his private life he even seriously starts to think about whether or not to go back to America. The Head of Department position has merit and it would be a solution to his problem with his career. It would give him a lot of freedom and he could make something out of Rummidge that way. He also has nothing to lose when it comes to family as Désirée apparently hasn’t change her opinion on getting a divorce.
His private life began to change when he more or less was forced to leave his rent apartment when frozen urin damaged the room he rent at O’Shea’s. He ended up living with Hilary for the time being and has been trying to woo her. She shows a lot of resistance to his advances. Only when Swallow forgets about her birthday does she agree to go out with him and even then the two don’t end up in the same bed. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 200ff)
After that night he is about to move back into his rent apartment when she asks him to stay another night. When she finds out Swallow betrayed her once more Zapp finally manages to convince her to sleep with him. Afterwards he feels terrific and ‘delighted to find himself capable of making love again’ (Lodge 1975, p. 231), which is something he had had problems with before. He still is a hypocrite however, which can be seen when he calls Désirée a ‘double-crossing bitch’ (Lodge 1075, p. 236) after he finds out that she has an affair with Swallow.
In the end it is unclear what his choice will be. Even though all four of them meet up, it is unclear what they will do from there. He spends a night with Désirée, even though she still says she doesn’t want him.
Ten years later, Zapp and Désirée are divorced and he has set it as his goal to become the ‘[…] highest paid Professor of English in the world.’ (Lodge 1984, p. 42)
2. Philip Swallow
2.1 Philip Swallow at the beginning of ‘Changing places’
Philipp Swallow is in many ways the opposite of Morris Zapp at the beginning of the book. Philip Swallow has a low-self esteem, is conventional and has no ambition. ‘He is a mimetic-man: unconfident, eager to please, infinitely suggestible.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 10) He works as a junior lecturer at the university of Rummidge, whose only major project was his MA thesis, which he only managed to finish during the carefree atmosphere of atmosphere of his and Hilary’s honeymoon in America. After their return to Rummdige and the birth of their children he envies his previous self. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 20f)
He’s very much looking forward to spending six months in Euphoria and takes pleasure in imagining simple things, that for other’s would be quite normal.
‘[…] emotionally it is still for him a kind of paradise, the place where he was once happy and free and may be so once again. He looks forward with simple, childlike pleasure to the sunshine, ice in his drinks, drinks, parties, cheap tobacco and infinite varieties of ice-cream; to being called ‘Professor’, to being complimented on his accent by anonymous telephonists, to being an object of interest simply by virtue of being British;’ (Lodge 1975, p. 21)
He also feels a little bit guilty for leaving Hilary and their children alone. The source of that guilt was the fact that he does not believe he will miss them during his absence. Their relationship had cooled down and his children could do very well without him for half a year. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 23ff) He wants to enjoy his time without his family and looks forward to not having any responsibility and staying in bed during the weekend.
On his flight to Euphoria he meets a former student he does not like, Charles Boon. Boon is successful in America, has his own radio show and might even get a TV show as well. He offers Swallow a place there, but Swallow, who does not like Boon, does not believe this to be a lie, though to his astonishment Boon later walks back to his own seat, which apparently is in the first class.
2.2 Philip Swallow’s first few weeks in England
Philip Swallow soon rents a cheap, at least by Euphoric standards, apartment and enjoys the scenery he has from it. He shares the house with Melanie Bird and two other girls, who rent the apartment on the ground floor. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 55ff)
On his first morning he wants to explore his new work place but is prevented from entering by policemen as a bomb had been planted. The bomb explodes but no one seems to upset by it as there is a lot of unrest at the university. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 64)
He is given Professor Zapp’s office and finds a lot of books, addressed to him, from publishers who hope he will chose their book for his course. Swallow is happy about this until Wily Smith, a student who’d like to take his course, informs him, that he is supposed to teach novel-writing. However Swallow wants to decline teaching this class and calls the Chairman of the Department, Professor Hogan. Hogan doesn’t listen to him. Wily Smith then informs him about some of the teachers and tells him that they are rated by the students. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 65ff)
To his annoyance he gets instantly known all over the university when he lets it slip to Wily that he knows Charles Boon.
‘His office began to fill with people anxious to make his acquaintance for the sake of some anecdote of Charle’s Boon’s early life, and before the end of the afternoon the Chairman’s wife, Mrs Hogan, had phones and plead for Philip’s assistance in persuading Boon to attend their cocktail party.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 73)
At the party the first thing he is asked by Mrs Boon is if Boon didn’t come with him when he arrives alone. He then proceeds to drop the brick and asks Mr Hogan to introduce him to Mr Kroop, as Kroop is the only name of the English Department he managed to remember. Apparently Kroop is not someone who would ever be invited. The man is on probation as his publications are unsatisfactory. Just when he is asked about his own work and publication he is saved by the arrival of Boon who immediately takes the spotlight, much to his annoyance. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 75ff)
‘Philip, who had rather counted on being himself the evening’s chief focus of attention, found himself standing neglected on the fringes of this little court. Disgruntled, he wandered out of the living-room on to the terrace. A solitary woman was leaning against the balustrade, staring moodily at the Bay, where a spectacular sunset was in progress […]’ (Lodge 1975, p. 77f)
The woman is Désirée, Zapp’s wife. Their first conversation turns very awkward as they talk about family, the exchange between Zapp and him as well as Rummidge. As Désirée decides to leave he notices that all the other people have already left, even Mr and Mrs Hogan so he has to walk all the way to his apartment. (Lodge 1975, p 79ff)
Finally arriving back at his house he realizes that he forgot his key, but luckily Melanie opens the door and even invites him to eat with them, as they are having a little party with some friends and also smoke a joint. He accepts the invite and tries to fit in, but tries to avoid smoking a joint. After he taught them a game called ‘Humiliation’ the talk turns to an ice breaker of a seminar where everyone had to show the content of their purse. As Swallow shows the content of his purse, which held a picture of his ‘uptight’ family, Melanie tells him, he’s lovely and kisses him. In a way this kiss to him is an eye opener.
‘Philip felt a physical sensation he hadn’t felt in more than twenty years: a warm, melting sensation that began in some seep vital centre of his body and spread outwards, gently fading, till it reached his extremities. He recaptured, in that one kiss, all the helpless rapture of adolescent eroticism – and all it’s embarrassment too.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 98)
In the spur of the moment he joins their more and more sensual activities until he steps on a coffee cup during an oil massage after which he goes upstairs to his own apartment all the while debating with himself whether or not to go back. Instead of going back however, Melanie joins him in his apartment and even though it wasn’t planned, he sleeps with her. As soon as it was over he is eaten by guilt. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p 101ff)
The next morning she is gone from his room and he does his best to avoid her as he is in inner turmoil and doesn’t know what to do about this situation. He doesn’t see her again the day after either however. The situation only resolves after he has some sort of an epiphany at a strip tease show.
‘[…] he reached, he felt, a profound insight into the nature of the generation gap: it was a difference of age. The young were younger. Hence more beautiful. […] And how was the gap to be bridged? By love, of course. […] Melanie, how simple and good her gesture seemed in the clear light of his new understanding. How needlessly he had complicated it with emotions and ethics.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 116)
By chance he meets Melanie right outside the Pussycat Go-go and tries to persuade her to come back to him. She however is not interested and has a date with some guy who is looking for an apartment. In order to get Melanie to spend time with him, Swallow offers his spare room, not knowing that the person looking for a room is Charles Boon. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 116ff)
When Hilary finally finds out about his affair through an anonymous letter, he is most shocked about the fact that Melanie is Morris Zapp’s daughter from his first marriage and apologizes to Hilary, afraid she might want a divorce. (Lodge 1975, p. 142ff) This however does not stop him from lusting after her and being envious of Boon, who is her boyfriend.
2.3 The rest of Philip Swallow’s stay in America
A big change for Swallow occurs when he has to move out of his apartment due to a landslide during a storm. In hindsight it was a good thing for him, as he got rid of Boon that way and was able to move in with Désirée and her children.
‘The landslide swept away a whole Sodom and Gomorrah of private fantasies and unacted desires. He felt a new manin the calm, initially sexless atmosphere of Désirée Zapp’s luxurious eyerie high up on the peak of Socrates Avenue. He began to eat better, sleep better. Together he and Désirée gave up smoking.’ (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 180)
At first it was just a temporary arrangement until he can find a new apartment, and as he is helping a lot with the kids, he does not feel like he is imposing much on her.
‘It was almost like being married. On Sundays he would drive the twins into the State Park on the other side of the Plotinus hills and take them for rambles through the pine-woods. He felt himself reverting to a more comfortable, loose-fitting version of his life in England.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 197f)
As such he readily agrees when she offers to let him stay here, after he found an apartment.
His affair with Dèsirée only started after she bailed him out of prison, where he was detained for stealing bricks, which was just bad luck on his part, as he was trying to help his students and had no idea what they were doing. She actually is a bit disappointed afterwards that their relationship has changed, but does not want to stop the affair now. Again, Swallow does not tell Hilary about his affair.
Not only his feelings regarding his private life changes, but also his outlook on his career does. Over the last months he has changed so much, that now he is not able to imagine returning to Rummidge and believes that no one would recognise him anymore. ‘[…] if he went back in person, in the present state of his mind, they would say he was an impostor.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 178)
The same incident that brought him and Désirée together also managed to make him a famous garden-supporter, even though he does not really support their cause. He had gotten involved, when he saw Wily Smith and some of his friends carrying bricks. He offered help by driving but was stopped by the police, who bring him to the prison. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 190f) This incident makes him famous, though he is uncomfortable about it.
‘I never felt more than mildly sympathetic to the Garden. I’ve never set foot into the place. Now people, complete strangers, come up to me and shake my hand, congratulate me on my commitment. It’s most embarrassing.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 174)
Despite this, he partakes in the vigil his colleagues hold and he also agrees to a radio broadcast with Boon on the evening of the same day.
As he arrives at the university he meets Mr Hogan and half seriously asks for a permanent job. Unlike Morris Zapp he is not offered one, however, he lacks publications and also does not have a PhD. (Cf. Lodge 1975, p. 182)
As he sits in a coffee after the vigil he finally understands what he wants to say to Hilary, as he had been unable to write to her about his affair with Désirée. He has realised that their relationship has become stagnant and compares their marriage to a machine.
‘[…] I see I’ve slipped unconsciously into the past tense, I suppose because I can’t conceive of returning to that kind of relationship. Which is not to say I want a divorce or separation, but simply that if we are going to go on together it will have to be on a new basis. Life, after all, should go forwards not backwards.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 196)
At the same evening, during his radio broadcast, Hilary calls to the surprise and horror of Swallow. He tries to stop her from talking during the broadcast, but she doesn’t listen to him and Boon makes no move to stop the broadcast either. He tells her to get of the phone without a real explanation to which she answers she’s about to have an affair and he finally tells her he has one already. ‘But I don’t want to tell the whole world about it.’ (Lodge 1975, p. 200)
Désirée contacts her about it and they decide to all meet up and talk about their future. So again it stays unclear about what will happen in the future.
It becomes clear in ‘Small World’, however, that Swallow and Hilary are still married, even if they are drifting apart more and more. It also becomes clear that he got his promotion upon his return to Rummidge and is now the Head of department. (Cf. Lodge, 1984, p. 21 f)
Lodge, David: Changing Places. A Tale of Two Campuses. Martin Secker&Warburg Ltd, Penguin Books, Great Britain. United States of America 1975, 1978
Lodge, David: Small World. An Academic Romance. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, Penguin Books, Great Britain. United States of America 1984, 1985