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Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Chapter 22 | Summary



The "Merrie England" lecture is almost too insane to summarize. It's like a comic nightmare. Dixon reaches the stage, barely upright due to nerves and the insane amount of drink in his body. The students in the balcony stamp their feet and laugh before he even begins speaking—his black eye tips them off this will be something special.

Before he knows what he is doing, Dixon begins his lecture in a perfect and involuntary imitation of Professor Welch's braying voice. He sees Bill Atkinson, who has promised to fake a faint if things get too crazy during the lecture and Dixon needs to escape. He hopes it won't come to that, though now he realizes he is speaking as if he is the college principal. As Dixon attempts not to laugh at the memory, he sees Christine and Carol Goldsmith leaving the hall together. Dixon loses his place in the lecture. Welch asks him, "What is the matter with you?"

He feels hot, then hotter. His hand shakes. Perhaps if he just begins talking again this will go better. But no. Now he is "contriving to sound like an unusually fanatical Nazi trooper in charge of a book-burning" but reading "excerpts from a pamphlet written by a pacifist, Jewish, literate Communist." He switches to an "unnamable foreign accent." The gallery is going crazy. Atkinson fakes his faint, Welch shouts Dixon's name, and Dixon delivers his coup de grace. Stepping out in front of the podium, he says, "The point about Merrie England is that it was about the most un-Merrie period in our history." Then he passes out.


Amis's comic timing and precision are masterful. But the chapter is not pure comedy; it also drives the plot forward. Dixon has ruined his chance of further employment, Gore-Urquhart emerges as an interesting character, and Christine and Carol have a meeting of the minds.

The "Merrie England" lecture directly influenced many British comedies, particularly the TV show Fawlty Towers, with John Cleese as the incomparable Basil Fawlty. Dixon's anxiety-based imitations also seem to have inspired nearly every too-embarrassing-to-watch verbal slapstick routine in the decades since Lucky Jim's publication.

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