Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Chapter 10 | Summary



It's the Summer Ball, and Margaret tells Dixon the mix-up and switching of partners infuriated everyone. Carol Goldsmith—whom only Dixon knows is Bertrand's lover—gets upset when Bertrand says Christine is coming to the ball as his date and Carol would be escorted by Christine's uncle, Julius Gore-Urquhart.

Dixon is not a good dancer; he has to concentrate to keep up. Margaret "look[s] as if she was enjoying herself," while "his socks seemed to have been sprayed with fine adhesive sand." He is desperate for a drink, and he worries that Christine is ignoring him. Christine looks beautiful, with a simple dress highlighting her "natural coloring"; meanwhile Margaret wears a "decidedly ill-judged ... royal-blue taffeta."

After noticing his friend Beesley is dateless, Dixon realizes someone is worse off than him. What's important is "the possession of the signs of sexual privilege," not the "quality nor the enjoyment of them." In other words, it doesn't matter if you're having sex or like the sex you're having; what matters is looking like you could have sex if you wanted to.

The party joins with Carol and Gore-Urquhart. Dixon had expected "Uncle Julius" to be more prepossessing; it's a relief to see he is unintimidating and focused on avoiding the college president.

Everyone seems to be getting along. Margaret and Gore-Urquhart chat, and the latter acquires pint glasses of beer from Maconochie, who is serving as bar man. Then Margaret tells Dixon, "I'm getting much too fond of you." He sees this as evidence of her "frustration and loneliness" and worries his sympathy will only deepen their entanglement. Therefore, he dances with Christine.


In Amis's universe, there are two kinds of people: those in on the joke and those hopelessly out of it. Julius Gore-Urquhart seems as if he'll be in; Christine does as well. Margaret is both in on the joke and out of it because of her attachment to convention and her worrying desire for happiness. The Welches are way out. Bill Atkinson is all in. Dixon and his fellow "in jokers" are adolescent in many ways, and that may be the most reasonable response to the horrors of World War II and postwar propriety.

Lucky Jim predicts the 1960s flood of British humor and "mod" madness, including the Beatles, Monty Python, and miniskirts. Reading this chapter is reminiscent of watching the 1965 Beatles film Help, in which the Fab Four attempt to solve an international mystery, James Bond–style, while also running from their crazed fans. In this chapter, Margaret is a sort of crazed fan, and Dixon must escape her by constantly switching dance partners. It's high slapstick in the tradition of comedy duo the Marx Brothers and humorist P.G. Wodehouse.
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