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Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Chapter 3 | Summary



Michie, a student Dixon despises, accosts him after a lecture. Like Dixon, Michie served in World War II; he "commanded a tank troupe at Anzio" while Dixon was a Royal Air Force corporal in western Scotland. In other words, Michie was rather more heroic than Dixon. Michie asks Dixon for a syllabus for the next term's class. However, Dixon doesn't know if he'll even be teaching the class so he doesn't want to make a syllabus. He doesn't feel the students should be able to choose their class and teacher based on the perusal of a syllabus ahead of time; this option feels like another one of Welch's hoops for him to jump through.

Back at his boardinghouse, Dixon discovers his article has been accepted by a journal, even though his name is misspelled on the envelope and the letter, from L.S. Caton, is written as if in great haste. The post also contains a musical magazine for Evan Johns, Dixon's enemy, and he defaces the composer on the cover. Dixon and Alfred Beesley commiserate about their chances of employment next term; they are both in the same situation but in different departments—their fates dependent upon currying favor with their despised "professors." Beesley asks Dixon why he chose to pursue a career in academia, and Dixon explains he chose medieval studies because it seemed like a "soft option."

Dixon asks Bill Atkinson, who's also in the boardinghouse tearoom, to call him at the Welches' house, offering him an excuse to leave early on Sunday. He worries the oboist Johns has heard the plan, but he decides it doesn't matter. Dixon leaves for the Welches' home.


Anzio was a particularly long and bloody battle in Italy between Allied and Axis forces during World War II. Michie, then, is a war hero. Dixon is nothing like a hero; he experienced his war on the home front as a lowly corporal.

This chapter sets up the relationship between the boardinghouse residents: Dixon, Beesley, Atkinson, and Johns. The first three universally despise Johns, taking every opportunity to play pranks on him and make his life miserable. His crimes are playing the oboe and being a prig, an insult in Amis's world. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a prig is "a self-righteously moralistic person who behaves as if ... superior to others." The word is British in origin, dating back several hundred years. While not slang, it never quite crossed into common usage in the United States.

Johns may or may not be of a higher class than the other three men at the boardinghouse, but he acts as if he is superior. This superior display is a high crime in class-conscious Britain. Dixon, Atkinson, and Beesley may be middle class, but they don't act as if they're trying to surpass their station by playing oboe and currying favor with Professor Welch. Their solidarity, which runs to drinking copious amounts of liquor and helping each other (that is, helping Dixon) out of various disasters, is perhaps the most authentic friendship in Lucky Jim. It also mirrors Amis's own lifelong close friendships with men, particularly Philip Larkin.

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