Jim Dixon has been a junior lecturer in the history department of a provincial college in England after World War II for eight months when Lucky Jim begins. Dixon is unremarkable in every way except for his sardonic mental commentaries on those around him, which focus on the nuances of other people's voices, appearance, or language. Dixon also vents his frustration with others through faces he makes to himself in private, some of which have actual titles.
At the beginning of the novel, Dixon is a meek man, although his thoughts are not. His indecisive actions and quite demeanor reflect his fear of being fired from his post at the end of the term next month. Dixon's meekness also reflects his fear of hurting Margaret, who he is not attracted to, but to whom he is attached by virtue of their friendship and his concern for her. Dixon's character becomes filled out as he defines himself by what he doesn't like. Dixon despises unnecessary complexity, pomposity, hypocrisy, and those who feel that some people—artists, higher classes, for example—have special needs that ordinary people don't have. From this last conviction arises Dixon's socialism, which fits in with the Labour government atmosphere after World War II in Britain. However, Dixon's feeling that no one has special needs also seems to extend to the unfortunate as well as the fortunate. The knowledge that Margaret wasn't born particularly attractive, for example, does not endear her any further to Dixon. Dixon feels that he has been unlucky as well, but his luck changes over the course of the novel, as he makes the conscious decision to "bet on his luck" for the first time in his life.
Margaret Peel holds a more senior lectureship than Dixon at the same provincial college. Margaret and Dixon have become friends, as Margaret is sympathetic to Dixon's feelings about the Welches. Margaret, however, is generally more open to people such as Mrs. Welch and Evan Johns, who are Dixon's sworn enemies. Margaret appears to be a threat to Dixon throughout the novel, employing emotional tactics that often leave Dixon speechless. Margaret is less beautiful and refined than Christine Callaghan, and she overcompensates for her homeliness with poorly-applied make-up and garish clothing.
Margaret can be as unaware and self-centered as Professor Welch. She can also be jealous and condescending toward Dixon, even referring to him as "Poor James," as if he were a child. Margaret vacillates from emotional instability to a secretive tone when she talks to Dixon, and Dixon recognizes the loneliness behind each of these modes. At the beginning of the novel, Margaret's largest fault is her tendency toward the dramatic, but as the novel proceeds she becomes more manipulative, and downright mean when she is crossed. The culmination of her manipulation is Catchpole's revelation that Margaret has faked her suicide attempt to gain romantic attention from either himself or from Dixon. This revelation reflects badly on Margaret, not just because of her scheming, but because Margaret is even in love with Dixon or Catchpole.
When we first meet Christine Callaghan, she hangs on Bertrand's arm and listen on his every word, laughs at his jokes, and acts the part of his prim and prissy wife- to-be. Despite the facade of false maturity, Christine's sense of humor and genuineness show through. Her unremorseful attitude toward eating, as well as her unmusical laugh, make Christine seem less artificial than Margaret. When Christine finally opens up to Dixon, we learn that she is unhappy with Bertrand, but has been unhappy in all her relationships with men. We discover that she is quite young, and not as omniscient as she first appeared. Christine is actually quite shy, and it takes her several minutes and some prodding in her initial conversations with Dixon to become comfortable enough to reveal her genuine self.
Christine is quite nice, yet she also dislikes all the right people, such as Evan Johns and Mrs. Welch. Christine's niceness and sense of propriety lead her to stay with Bertrand, hoping for the best and giving him the benefit of the doubt even though she suspects that there is history between Bertrand and Carol Goldsmith. Perhaps due to her unsuccessful love life, Christine has a tendency to evaluate her feelings objectively, trying to make a calculated decision about her future rather than succumbing to urges. Christine has the potential to be downright cold when she takes her objective thinking too far. Christine doesn't seem to experience much character change over the course of the novel and, in fact, hardly appears in the final chapters.