Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Dixon is very drunk after his escape to the pub during the Welches' house party. He returns to the house and catches sight of Bertrand Welch kissing Carol Goldsmith. Though surprised and disturbed, he is also too drunk to think about it.

He goes upstairs. The room in which he is staying is accessible only through the shared bathroom, which is currently occupied. Margaret invites him into her room to wait. They chat and then kiss. Dixon attempts to take things further, moving his hand under her robe and then under her nightdress. Eventually—and before they are able to consummate whatever relationship they have—Margaret throws him out of the room. She is furious; he is confused. He goes downstairs, drinks the Welches' sherry, and then finally returns to his room and passes out. Between the sherry and the passing out is probably the most vivid description of drunkenness in the history of British prose.

Analysis

The sexual fumblings Amis describes trace to Philip Larkin and his admissions to the much more sexually "successful" Amis. From a contemporary standpoint, Margaret's problems seem clear: no matter what she wants she can't have sex with Dixon. To do so would be to imply she is either a licentious woman or they are engaged. He has not proposed to her. She is recovering from a suicide attempt. Acting on her adult sexual instincts is a bad idea for her. This belief makes her anger at Dixon understandable. She's not being a clichéd 1950s gal, upset at her boyfriend for being "fresh." She's angry with her friend for putting her in the position of having to be the grownup. This rather feminist act on Margaret's part may not have been meant as such, given Amis's later outspoken anathema to anything feminine, let alone feminist, but it's still progressive for its time.

The pages-long description of Dixon's drunkenness is almost as famous as his description of a hangover at the beginning of Chapter 6. Amis was like a cartographer of inebriation. Later in life he wrote a drinks column for Penthouse Magazine, and his books include the nonfiction On Drink (1972). Plus, he was an alcoholic. However, Dixon's overindulgence is almost heroically pure. He drinks to forget his embarrassment, to escape his fate, to tolerate the boorishness of his life. Still, getting ragingly drunk also will have less pleasant consequences.

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