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Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Chapter 12 | Summary



Now Dixon is dancing with Carol Goldsmith. She complains about Bertrand Welch and his womanizing ways. She's furious Bertrand seems to have thrown her over for Christine; she and her husband don't have sex any longer. Carol thinks Dixon should throw over Margaret and go for Christine. She tells Dixon he's in love with Christine and says this is his moment for learning the truth of life. "Your age ... [is] when you first realize that sex is important to other people besides yourself," she tells him.

Together they return to the party. Dixon is a bit shaken; Carol's frank talk affected him. Drinking with Beesley helps him return to his usual duty: taking care of Margaret. However, when he sees her happily in conversation with Gore-Urquhart, he goes off script. Abandoning all good sense and loyalty, he calls a cab to take Christine and him back to the Welches' house.


Dixon dances with one woman at the beginning of Chapter 10, another at the start of Chapter 11, and yet a third at the outset of Chapter 12, making for an interesting structural setup. Somehow Dixon, the least passionate and serious person in the room, is the confidante of several attractive and intelligent women. How does he do it? How does any fictional male with more character flaws than positive attributes do it? Amis is writing a fantasy here, but it's still fun. The setup also allows him to maintain the close third-person point of view while "getting inside" these women's heads.

The Marx Brothers were among of the most popular actors of Amis's childhood and adolescence in the 1930s. Their set pieces in the films Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera are iconic examples of comic choreography. The Brothers seem to be everywhere at once, dancing with women, slipping in and out of rooms and theater boxes, managing to bamboozle and confound each other as well as the other characters. Their "straight men" are often women, especially the actress Margaret Dumont, who infamously played a naive, "proper" woman to Groucho's leering, delirious oddballs. Both Lucky Jim's Margaret's easily offended innocence and Mrs. Welch's absurd propriety feel directly indebted to these great cinematic moments.

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