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Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Chapter 8 | Summary



A few weeks have passed. Dixon is at the college, and Professor Welch summons him. This summoning reminds Dixon of his flight sergeant during the war, who often used the same tone to summon him. Welch says he is concerned about Dixon's shipbuilding article; a friend told him the editor of the publishing journal might be unreliable.

Dixon uses this conversation as his cue to ask Welch about his continued employment, but Welch neatly dodges the question. Dixon's hatred of Welch grows the longer he talks. He fantasizes about hitting him, humiliating him, speaking his mind. Finally he realizes "he'd never be able to tell Welch what he wanted to tell him." It's the same problem he has with Margaret.

Dixon heads to the Common Room where the faculty gather and drink tea. There he sees Margaret, and they have a tiff. Margaret is in a difficult mood. She cries, explaining to Dixon "she can't go on like this," which alarms him; is she contemplating suicide again? It turns out the Summer Ball is the coming weekend. Dixon has not asked her to go with him. When he does, her mood brightens immediately. Bertrand is also coming, and he's bringing Carol Goldsmith. When Margaret leaves, Dixon writes to the journal editor as Professor Welch asked him to do. He is being an obedient young man.


Professor Welch is ludicrous, Margaret is emotional, and Dixon is resentful yet agreeable. The semester is ending, and he has no idea if he has a job lined up. (The system at this 1950s British college is sadly similar to that of adjuncts in the United States.) Unsure of his professional status, Dixon feels unsure of his social status as well. A steady job covers a multitude of sins.

Amis mentions Dixon's military service infrequently, which is surprising at first. Today, World War II and its attendant obligations and privations seem to be the defining characteristic of that era. Amis and Dixon seem to have had quite a different wartime experience. Dixon never served overseas. His military is one of drills and shouting sergeants, not heroism or particular privation. He was not an officer like Michie. Part of his character must be that "his war" was not much of a change from his life before or after: cold-water baths and damp feet, shouting bosses and pointless activities. Amis never mentions fascism or the fight against it. Professor Welch's sentimentality regarding "Merrie England" is almost fascist—in the sense of exercising dictatorial power—itself.

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