Jim Dixon, the protagonist of the novel, works as a teacher of history at English provincial university. He teaches there the first year and may not be credited to the constant position, and passes at the moment a probationary period. But he makes a bad impression on his colleagues from the very beginning. On the first days of his stay at the faculty, he manages to injure the Professor of English. Coming out of the library, Dixon sees a small round pebble lying on the sidewalk, and he kicks it, and it, of course, meets on its way a knee of a professor. Dixon should apologize, but he instead is watching the flight of the stone, and then slowly walks away. He has no guts to apologize - as always in such cases. It does not take more than two days after the incident, as at the first meeting of the faculty, passing the chair of the archivist, he stumbles and knocks the chair just at the moment when the old man was about to sit on it. Then Dixon criticizes the work of one of the students, and then he finds out that this study was written with the blessing and on the advice of Professor Welch, who determines Dixon’s fate, for it is Welch to decide to remain Dixon to teach at the university or not.
It should be said that colleagues make on Dixon not the best impression as well. But there is nothing to do. Everyone wants to get into the staff. Therefore, mentally drawing caricatures of his colleagues and building funny faces, Dixon gives a considerable tribute to hypocrisy and tries to look like everyone else. And even trying to smooth out the bad impression of his own person, engages in scientific work, and writes an article entitled "The impact of economic factors on the development of shipbuilding handicraft in the period from 1450 to 1485". However, Dixon realizes the senselessness of this scientific study and notes himself that the article does not deserve anything, except a few strong and foul expressions.
Once Welch invites Dixon to join him for the weekend and to help in organizing a musical evening. And he gives him the task to prepare for the end of the semester a lecture on "Good old England". In the Welches’ hous Dixon meets Margaret, who also teaches at the university. Three weeks ago, she tried to commit suicide because of failed love affair. After Margaret left the hospital, she lives in the house of the professor and his wife. Dixon started dating Margaret soon after he began teaching at the University. At first he just out of courtesy accepted Margaret’s invitation to come to her for a cup of coffee, and then he suddenly became a man thet is seen with Margaret everywhere. However, he is not a lover of Margaret, but just plays a role of a comforter, which he wants to escape as soon as possible.
Dixon visits the musical evening only because he depends on the professor and wants to make a good impression. There also comes professor’s son Bertrand, accompanied by Christina Kellegen, a niece of a certain Julius Gore Erkvart, who Bertrand hopes to work with. Dixon takes her for another woman, for the former fiancee of Bertrand. That is again an unpleasant misunderstanding, which caused from the beginning in an awkward relationship with the son of the professor. Enraged and frustrated, Jim quietly leaves the house and goes to the bar. He returns back late at night, pretty drunk. He enters Margaret’s room and tries to molest her. Margaret throws Dixon away, and he goes down to the first floor to the bar, where half a bottle of portwein adds more. As a result, he fell asleep with a lit cigarette that burns bedding, carpet and nightstand. In the morning Dixon comes down to the dining room, there meets Christina and tells her about a small fire in his bedroom. Christina rises with Dixon up and helps him to cover up the traces of fire. Then Jim informs the owners that his parents came suddenly, and that he must leave.
The second time Dixon meets Christina is at the summer ball at the university, where he came together with Margaret. And Christina is there in the company of Bertrand and his uncle, Julius Gore Erkvarta. Throughout the evening, Bertrand talks only with the uncle of Christina. Margaret is also trying to attract the attention of Gore-Erkvarta. Dixon sees Christine, as well as him, is bored at this ball, and he asks her to leave with him. On the way to the taxi they have a sincere conversation, and Cristina asks Dixon whether she should marry Bertrand. Dixon gives a negative answer, stating that he likes Christine. When they drove up to the Welch’s home, where she is a guest, Jim asks the chauffeur to wait while he goes to see off Christina home. They get into the house through the window. Once inside the room, the young people kiss, then Dixon admits that he is in love with Christina. Before leaving, Jim agrees with Christine about the next meeting.
A few days later professor Welch again invites Dixon to his dinner. However, when Jim comes to the professor, he, apologizing, says that there was a misunderstanding and that he this evening goes to the theater. Jim meets Bertrand. Young people seriously quarrel because Dixon had at that time taken away Christina from the summer ball. Returning home, Dickson reflects on the futility of his meetings with Christine, and even tries to cancel a meeting. They nevertheless meet, and Christina says Jim, that they must not see each other anymore, because she is bound with Bertrand. However, some time later, at the moment when Jim is preparing for a lecture on "good old England" Bertrand enters his room and rudely tells him to keep away from Christina. Then Dixon, who has already decided himself not to meet with the girl, in order to hurt Bertrand, said that he had serious intentions. Bertrand beats Dixon in the face, and a brawl starts in which Jim eventually wins by knocking the opponent down, and then packs him off from the room.
That day, when Dickson had to read his lecture, he drinks in the morning half a dozen of whiskey with his neighbor Bill Atkinson. Then, before the lecture, he drinks several glasses of sherry. And just before the exit to the platform Jim meets Julius Gore Erkvart and the last treats him with neat Scotch whiskey. As a result Jim Dixon tries to read the lecture being completely drunk. But it does not work. He only amuses the audience, exactly repeating intonation of professor Welch and the dean. In the end, drunk alcohol, excitement and heat take their, and he loses consciousness. The next morning he receives a letter from Professor Welch, where he advises Dixon to leave. And in the afternoon Julius Gore Erkvart calls him and offers a place of his personal secretary, the place Bertrand was after. Jim is happy. The same day, Dixon meets Margaret’s exboyfriend, and in conversation with him, it turns out that Margaret just played the scene of a suicide by taking a safe dose of sleeping pills. And then Jim returns, where Bill Atkinson is waiting to tell: he had just had a telephone conversation with Christine, she leaves and she needs to say Dixon something very important. Jim rushes to the train station, where Christine informs him that he broke with Bertrand: it turns out, Bertrand continues to meet with his longtime mistress. Dixon tells her the news, he says, he will now be working for her uncle and is ready to go after Christine to London. Arm in arm, young people proudly pass by dumbfounded family of Welches.