Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Chapter 19 | Summary



Back at Mrs. Cutler's house, Dixon stares at the communal telephone. He knows he has to cancel his tea date with Christine, but he doesn't want to, in large part because he's terrified of Mrs. Welch answering the phone. Finally, he calls, she answers, and he uses a funny English accent. It doesn't work; she knows it's him and threatens to have her husband take disciplinary action if he tries to meddle in Bertrand's life, or hers, again. He hangs up, his date with Christine still intact.

Dixon's phone rings. It is a man named Catchpole. Dixon knows this man broke Margaret's heart, precipitating her overdose. Catchpole sounds reasonable for such a monster—as Dixon understands him to be. "There's some kind of mix-up here," Catchpole says. They agree to meet for a drink on Thursday.

Next, Dixon screws his courage to the sticking point and calls Caton, the editor of the journal promised to publish his paper. All he wants is a date to tell Welch; Caton refuses to answer, gabbling on that "things are very difficult, things are very difficult." Dixon groans and heads upstairs to work on the endless "Merrie England" lecture.

It is time for tea with Christine! It's a poignant meeting. Both are attached to the wrong people—Dixon to Margaret and Christine to Bertrand—and they know they'll hardly see each other when Christine returns to London. Dixon decides not mention Carol Goldsmith's admission about her affair with Bertrand. Christine, "face down," tries to lessen the unhappiness they're both feeling, telling Dixon, "I think you're making a bit of a fuss, more than you need," and claiming, "Nothing's happened between us to speak of, has it?" She leaves.

Alone in the tea room, Dixon reflects, "It was luck you needed all along"; that's what would have enabled him to change his life. No such luck for Dixon. Yet.


Things are starting to roll into place, but Dixon doesn't realize it. Again there are two potential paths for him. His first option: he can continue to teach at the college, marry Margaret, endure endless weekends with the Welches, and probably drink himself into an early grave. His second option: he can rebel—but not in the passive-aggressive, making-faces-behind-his-enemy's-back way he's accustomed to. He needs to do something. This requires—as Philip Larkin might have put it—stepping away from the "sort of bargain" of middle-class life. Is he willing? Is he brave enough? Is he lucky enough?

As a side note, this chapter contains many telephone calls on the communal line at Dixon's boardinghouse. For Dixon, the telephone is an instrument of doom. Mrs. Welch might answer at any time; people call him and don't make sense. It is a pre-email, pretext universe. The only communication options are letter, telegram, and awkward public phone calls.

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