Lucky Jim | Study Guide

Kingsley Amis

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Lucky Jim | Quotes


No other professor in Great Britain, he thought, set such store by being called Professor.

Narrator, Chapter 1

With this thought, Dixon establishes his contempt for Welch and his pretentions.


Although he wasn't allowed to smoke another cigarette until five o'clock, Dixon lit one now.

Narrator, Chapter 1

Dixon cannot smoke as much as he wants for financial reasons. It is one of the many ways in which he feels oppressed and frustrated.


The tinkle of tiny silver bells.

Narrator, Chapter 2

Dixon hears this sound when Margaret—or sometimes another woman—is laughing to fake happiness or normalcy. He detests it as he detests any type of pretension or phoniness.


Haven't you noticed how we all specialize in what we hate most?

James Dixon, Chapter 3

Dixon is talking to Beesley about their chosen professions, which they both despise. He feels they have doomed themselves to lives of misery and dissatisfaction.


If one man's got ten buns and another's got two ... then ... take it from the man with ten buns.

James Dixon, Chapter 4

Dixon is responding to Bertrand Welch's hypocritical opinion about how the rich should not be "soaked" for their money. It's not surprising Bertrand would feel this way given that he is wealthy; nor is it surprising Dixon would oppose him since Dixon (a) is far from wealthy and (b) despises everything Bertrand stands for.


His face was heavy, as if little bags of sand had been painlessly sewn into ... it.

Narrator, Chapter 5

This description appears in the middle of a multipage tour de force about Dixon's drunkenness. It's hardly rare for him to be in this condition, but this particular episode is worse than usual.


His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night.

Narrator, Chapter 6

Another excerpt from the best description of a hangover in the history of English literature: It's clear Amis knows whereof he speaks; like Dixon, his protagonist, the author was a heavy drinker and no doubt suffered many a hangover.


The apparent deliquescence of the bowel that recognition brought on was only momentary.

Narrator, Chapter 9

Dixon experiences intense anxiety when he picks up the phone and hears Christine calling from London. He generally dislikes the phone and is particularly unnerved to talk to Christine since he has a crush on her but thinks she is out of his league.


What messes these women got themselves into over nothing.

Narrator, Chapter 11

Dixon thinks women's "messes" are caused by their foolish desire for relationships and marriage. Men, on the other hand, focus on "real and simple needs"—that is, sex. This idea neatly sums up Amis's vision of the Battle of the Sexes, circa 1953.


Your attitude measures up to the two requirements of love.

Carol Goldsmith, Chapter 12

Carol Goldsmith tells Dixon he must be in love with Christine Callaghan based on Carol's criteria: "You want to go to bed with her and can't, and you don't know her very well." This cynical idea of love seems shocking in the 1950s milieu. A contemporary reader might define this as being in "lust" rather than love.


She was wearing the green Paisley frock and the quasi-velvet shoes.

Narrator, Chapter 16

Dixon repeatedly worries over Margaret Peel's clothing, which tends toward the tacky, false, and unflattering and represents the worst of her fanciful self-representation. This particular ensemble appears several times. What is "quasi-velvet"? It is Amis's invention, brilliantly summing up the mystery of female presentation and middle-class hypocrisy. Christine Callaghan would never wear "quasi" anything.


It was luck you needed all along.

Narrator, Chapter 19

Dixon is reflecting on the difference between Margaret and Christine. The former is less attractive, which is a matter of luck. This idea reflects the British class system: people never escape the situation they were born into; they are either "lucky" or not.


To write things down as luck wasn't the same as writing them off as nonexistent.

Narrator, Chapter 24

Dixon has decided Christine's "normal" character is, to some extent, a result of her good looks. This belief may be Dixon's key philosophy: prettier people are happier than less pretty people. People are stuck in their assigned roles forever. However, Dixon himself is about to transcend his own assigned role, thanks to luck.


There was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones.

Narrator, Chapter 24

As Dixon realizes he may be able to date the lovely and simpatico Christine (a "nice thing") rather than neurotic Margaret (a "nasty one"), he considers how luck has saved him from a terrible fate with the wrong woman.


Dixon drew in breath to denounce [the Welches], then blew it all out again in a howl of laughter.

Narrator, Chapter 25

Finally, Dixon is laughing in the Welches' faces rather than behind their backs. In Lucky Jim laughter is the only way out of depression and frustration. However, until now Dixon has been too worried about his job to laugh openly at Professor Welch and company. Now he is going to London with Christine. He is free.

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