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Lucky Jim

Kingsley Amis

Chapter 18

Chapters 16–17

Chapters 19–20

Summary

By the end of that Tuesday, Dixon brings the checked-out library books to Professor Welch, who invites Dixon to dinner at his house. Dixon accepts, even though he should be working on his "Merrie England" lecture. In the car, Professor Welch discusses how much Dixon, Welch, and Michie have in common, namely, an interest in backward-looking English traditions. Dixon tunes out and thinks of how he will face Margaret at dinner and manage to signal that he still cares for her without returning to their previous relationship. Dixon tunes back in to hear Welch describing his second son, Michel, who is a writer. They pull up to the Welch residence and Dixon rips his only pair of good pants on an exposed spring in the car seat while getting out.

Inside the Welch house, Professor Welch suddenly explains there's been a mix-up and that the Welch family cannot have dinner with Dixon after all, as they are expected in town for a show with the Goldsmiths. Mrs. Welch confronts Dixon about the damaged sheets, and Dixon admits his guilt and offers to pay for them. Mrs. Welch also tells Dixon that she suspects that he called her house posing as a reporter for the Evening Post. Dixon feigns ignorance so successfully that Mrs. Welch leaves the room slightly embarrassed. Bertrand confronts Dixon about leaving the Ball with Christine. Dixon explains that he has done nothing wrong and that Christine can see whomever she would like. Bertrand screams at Dixon that Dixon is wasting his time with Christine and calls him a "lousy little philistine."

Christine pulls Bertrand away and Dixon sits down on the couch with Margaret. Bertrand's final comments have reinforced Dixon's feeling that he and Christine could never be together, and that he is destined to be with a woman like Margaret. Dixon talks listlessly and straightforwardly to Margaret about resuming their relationship; he refers to their relationship in terms of duty. He persuades Margaret to come to the movies with him later in the night and she goes upstairs to get ready. While Dixon waits in the hall, Christine comes downstairs. Dixon brings up the matter of their tea date, seemingly to cancel it, but Christine reassures him that she'll be there. Professor Welch brings the car around and Dixon, Bertrand, Christine, Margaret, and Mrs. Welch get in.

Analysis

In the car on the way to Welch's house, Dixon feels pessimistic about ever being able to end his relationship with Margaret and, therefore, begin a relationship with Christine. Accompanying this pessimism is Dixon's doubt about the appropriateness of his desire for Christine. Dixon's renewed passivity begins to seem self-pitying in this chapter, as he mourns to himself the bad luck of not having had parents like the Welch's with enough money to set him up in London. The return of Dixon's negative, paralyzing thinking is also accompanied by the return of Dixon's previous bad luck, as he rips his pants getting out of Welch's car.

Dixon's bad luck continues as he arrives at the Welches' and finally remembers that Mrs. Welch is going to confront him about the sheets. Bertrand's insistence that Dixon embarrass himself by revealing how the sheets were damaged makes Bertrand seem downright mean, instead of just pompous, especially in light of Dixon's reticence about Bertrand and Carol's affair. Mrs. Welch and Bertrand almost seem to be working as a team to forcefully remind Dixon of his inferior class status. Dixon, however, outwits them in the matter of the Evening Post phone call, thus reinforcing the common romantic literary theme of intelligence winning over privilege.

Bertrand's rudeness and aggressiveness in this chapter makes the lines between the "good" and "bad" characters in the novel even clearer than before, but Margaret's mean-spirited comments about Christine do not place Margaret in the same low category as Bertrand. For example, in this chapter, Margaret appears quite calm, genuine, and friendly to Dixon. This surprising normalcy on Margaret's part reinforces Dixon's pre-existing hunch that Margaret is the only kind of woman he will ever be with. Even Christine's unexpected repitiion of her commitment to their tea date the next day does little to shake Dixon's feeling of paralysis.

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