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Lucky Jim

Kingsley Amis

Chapters 16–17

Chapters 14–15

Chapter 18

Summary

Chapter 17

On Sunday, Dixon composes a threatening letter addressed to Johns. The letter accuses Johns of carrying on with one of the secretaries, and Dixon writes as if he were the secretary's angry boyfriend. Dixon daydreams for a bit about Christine, then begins thinking of his desperate financial situation. Margaret comes into Dixon's room and asks him why he deserted her at the Ball. She also informs Dixon somewhat triumphantly that all three Welches are upset with him. Dixon reminds Margaret that she ignored him at the dance in favor of Gore-Urquhart, and Margaret condescendingly tells Dixon he can't tell the difference between flirting and friendliness. Dixon tells Margaret that he is not interested in her romantically, and that she should stop acting as though he were. Suddenly, Margaret falls onto Dixon's bed and has an emotional fit. Bill Atkinson and Miss Cutler come in the room. Atkinson slaps Margaret several times and sends Dixon upstairs to Atkinson's room for whiskey. Soon Margaret acts normally again and apologizes for her behavior, commending Dixon on his patience. Margaret acknowledges their break-up and leaves, and Dixon feels a mixture of concern and guilt over her. He grabs the letter to mail to Johns and goes to the pub with Atkinson and Beesley.

Chapter 17

Dixon comes down to breakfast early on Monday so as to spend the full morning writing his "Merrie England" lecture. Beesley and Atkinson come in, followed by Johns with his letter. Beesley and Atkinson, who know about the contents of the letter, watch Johns with amusement as he reads the letter and becomes flustered. Atkinson asks him several times if he's heard bad news. Dixon doesn't enjoy the moment as much as he thought he would. Johns turns to Dixon and tells him the letter isn't funny, and threatens Dixon with revenge.

Beesley and Dixon walk to the college together. They enter the Common Room and check their mailboxes, and in one of his academic journals Beesley finds a notice announcing that Dr. L. S. Caton has gotten a job in Argentina. Dixon panics slightly and makes plans to call Caton soon about Dixon's article. Dixon walks over to the music department to get a book on medieval music from Professor Barclay to pad the "Merrie England" lecture with material Professor Welch will like. At the library, Dixon runs into Professor Welch, who gives Dixon a sheaf of papers containing titles he would like Dixon to check out for him at the public library in the city that day. Welch also tells Dixon to come to a meeting at five o'clock the next day, just an hour after Dixon is supposed to meet Christine in town.

Analysis

In Chapter 16, the scene between Margaret and Dixon makes Margaret's manipulative behavior even more apparent and ridiculous than it has previously been. Her comments to Dixon about Christine reveal Margaret's capacity for nastiness and reinforce a general alignment between her and the Welches on the issue social class. Margaret's fit of hysterics unsettles Dixon profoundly and somewhat re-establishes his desire not to rock the boat. These concerns, along with his employment and financial situation, weigh Dixon down to such an extent that he does not even fully enjoy his practical joke on Johns.

Although Dixon seems unhappy with his current job at the university, the end of Chapter 17 serves to reinforce our perception that Dixon is in fact performing his academic tasks must better than the incompetent Welch. Welch takes advantage of his power over Dixon to get Dixon to research basic topics that Welch should have full command of. These added tasks, on top of the "Merrie England" lecture, make it seem impossible that Dixon could ever actually fulfill what's required of him to keep his job.

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