Changing Places Summary

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"1. Flying."
Professor Exchange: The chapter alternately follows two planes moving in the opposite direction from shortly after their take-off to the moment of their landing. It is the 1st of January 1969 and two English literature professors are changing their places for six months. One goes to the State University of Euphoria, the famous centre of learning located in the most attractive country in America between Northern and Southern California. The other goes to the University of Rummidge, an obscure college in an ugly industrial city in the English Midlands. The Englishman Philip Swallow, aged forty, is bound to Euphoria, while the American Morris Zapp, of the same age, is bound to Rummidge. Swallow's Career: Philip Swallow is a postgraduate student and junior lecturer at Rummidge. He has low self-esteem, no ambition, and the last major work he finished was his MA thesis. All his academic attempts are marred by his obsessive perfectionism. He managed to finish his MA thesis only under the liberating influence of a wonderful honeymoon in America. He originally went to America on a fellowship at Harvard but he missed his love and fellow student Hilary Broome. Hilary gave up her studies and came to marry him and accompany him on his proposal. After their return to Rummidge and after the births of their three children, Amanda, Robert, and Matthew, the marriage lapsed into a tedious routine. The Radical Boon: Philip Swallow is offered the exchange only when his colleague gives it up in favour of a more attractive post. The head of the department intends to cheat him out of a senior lectureship in favour of a more capable candidate, which could be done more easily during Swallow's absence. Swallow happily anticipates the sense of freedom he once already felt in America and is overjoyed to escape from his domestic responsibilities. In the plane Swallow meets his former student, the highly unconventional radical Charles Boon. Swallow is shocked to find out that Boon is going on successfully in life and that he is returning to spend a second year at the University of Euphoria. Zapp's Career: Morris Zapp is a distinguished professor at Euphoria who has already achieved all that he possibly could have achieved in his professional career. He is self-confident, assured of his superiority in his field of study, sarcastic, and arrogant. Recently he has been troubled by a sense of having no end to work for: his reputation cannot be enhanced any further, it can only be damaged. He plans to write a monumental work comprising absolutely all that can be said about the subject and so completely exhausting the given field. He has started with the novels of Jane Austen. The Fallen Mary: Morris Zapp applies for the exchange despite his life-long scorn of England and the English. It is the only alternative open to him if he wants to put off divorce. His second wife Désirée gives him half a year of delay under the condition that he stays out of the house. He is not fond of his wife but of his twin children Elizabeth and Darcy, whom he would lose on divorce so as he lost his daughter Melanie from the first marriage. He is sold the plane ticket by his student for half the price and is shocked to find himself on a plane carrying women for an abortion trip. He engages in a conversation with his fellow passenger, Mary Makepeace, and is no less surprised that she is a Catholic College tutor pregnant with a priest. "2. Settling."

Chapter Structure: The chapter contrasts the differing experiences of the two professors on their arrival at the hosting universities, their accustoming themselves to the new environment, and the faux-pas by which they introduce themselves in the respective departments. It follows their succumbing or resisting to sexual temptation, contrasts their first visits to a strip-tease show, and finally reunites them with the characters they met previously on their planes. American System: Philip Swallow finds himself cheap lodgings...
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