Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Chapter 18 | Summary

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Summary

Having completed Professor Welch's drudge work, Dixon now feels compelled to accompany him home for dinner. While nattering on about his wife's "Gallic" nature, the professor explains she is opposed to the "Welfare State." This attitude hardens Dixon's dislike of her. Worse than seeing Mrs. Welch, however, is the prospect of seeing Margaret, Bertrand, and Christine. Professor Welch keeps chattering—now he's talking about his sons and their achievements in London—and Dixon wonders why he couldn't have "parents whose money so far exceeded their sense as to install their son in London."

When Welch and Dixon arrive at the Welch home, the professor suddenly realizes he has a prior engagement with the family and will not be able to offer Dixon dinner after all. Meanwhile Mrs. Welch, "like an actress dead on her cue," asks Dixon what, exactly, he did to her bedsheets. Christine and Margaret are talking in a corner and leave together. Mrs. Welch now demands to know why Dixon called the house and pretended to be a reporter writing an article about Bertrand. Bertrand also demands answers. Panicked, Dixon admits to destroying the bedsheets but avoids blame for the phone call.

It is now Bertrand's turn to interrogate Dixon; he demands to know why Dixon "induced Christine to skip out of the dance" with him. Dixon realizes this is his moment to end the "cold war" between himself and Welch's eldest son. Now things can get hot. He tells Bertrand he wanted to take Christine home with him. Bertrand says, "I'll break your horrible neck for you and get you dismissed from your job as well." Dixon responds in kind, and the situation ceases to escalate only when Margaret and Christine reenter the room.

Christine disappears with Bertrand, and Dixon is alone with Margaret. Though they are broken up, he gloomily realizes they will end up together after all. He says they should get back together, explaining, in the least romantic language possible, "We'd have started it again some time; it might just as well be now."

Margaret initially demurs but eventually agrees, and Dixon is impressed by their mutual honesty: "That was something, anyway." He is gutted when Christine reappears, dressed for the theater and looking especially pretty. The whole party piles into Welch's car and heads back into town.

Analysis

Margaret and Dixon are so bleakly honest with each other. They acknowledge they don't want to be together, but they will be. Margaret seems as happy as she can be; this is her desire, mostly. Dixon is miserable and satisfied that misery is his fate.

Knowing there is still a good bit of the book left to go might give readers hope, though. Perhaps Dixon will stand up for himself, or maybe Margaret will realize he is a miserable choice; perhaps something good will finally occur.

At least Dixon drops the act with Bertrand. This decision indicates he hasn't given up on Christine completely—or at least he still has some fight left in him. At this point the novel could go in one of two directions. Dixon can settle for his "fate," marry Margaret, get his job at the college, and live a sad life forever. Alternatively, he can rebel, with gusto. The outcome depends on what Amis wants to tell his readers: life is flat and pointless, or eccentricity and luck will eventually win out. Is the "lucky" in Lucky Jim ironic or true?

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