Skip over navigation

Lucky Jim

Kingsley Amis

Chapters 19–20

Chapter 18

Chapters 21–22

Summary

Chapter 19

Dixon sits in the drawing room of his house on Tuesday preparing to telephone Christine to cancel their tea date. Mrs. Welch answers when he calls, and in a panic, Dixon pretends to be an operator ringing someone through from London, then asks to speak with Christine in a strange accent. Mrs. Welch suspects she is speaking to Dixon and says so; Dixon hangs up.

A man introducing himself as Catchpole telephones Dixon. Catchpole asks about Margaret's health and Dixon reacts coldly to him. Catchpole seems confused about Dixon's treatment of him, and asks Dixon to meet him at the pub on Thursday afternoon. Dixon next telephones Caton to ask him for an estimated publication date, but Caton evasively refuses to give even an estimated date.

Dixon returns to his room to work on his lecture and stands up five hours later with the lecture nearly complete. He rushes to get ready for his date with Christine and arrives at the hotel two minutes late. Christine, who is already there, almost immediately tells Dixon of Bertrand's suspicion and her decision not to go on seeing Dixon. Although Dixon has come to tell her the same thing, he also expresses disgust at their mutual decisions to cautiously do what they should do instead of taking a risk. Dixon asks if he will ever see Christine again and she tells him that they will see each other one more time at Dixon's lecture the following night. Christine explains that she and Bertrand will be attending with her uncle Gore-Urquhart, who has mentioned that he is looking forward to seeing Dixon again. Dixon asks Christine for her address in London, but she refuses to give it, as there would be no point.

Chapter 20

The next day, Dixon writes the last lines of his lecture, which expresses Ned Welch-like thoughts about a return to a better past, then jumps around the room making ape gestures. Bertrand comes into Dixon's room and accuses him of seeing Christine the day before. Bertrand says Johns has told him about the tea date between Dixon and Christine. Bertrand explains to Dixon that he plans to marry Christine, and that Dixon has become a distraction to them. Annoyed, Dixon tells Bertrand that Bertrand himself is the one who is a distraction to Christine and Dixon. Dixon goes on to call Bertrand insincere for claiming to care about Christine while he is sleeping with Carol Goldsmith. Bertrand and Dixon begin to fight. Bertrand hits Dixon near his eye and Dixon hits Bertrand in the ear, sending him to the floor. It becomes apparent that Dixon has won the round.

At this moment, Michie knocks on Dixon's door and enters. Dixon ushers Bertrand out of the room and turns to Michie. Michie has come to tell Dixon that the three girls won't be taking Dixon's special subject, but that Michie will. Michie wishes Dixon luck on his lecture, informing him that a large number of students plan to attend. Dixon decides to shave and then go up to Atkinson's room for some whiskey before the evening begins.

Analysis

The phone call from the mysterious Catchpole rouses Dixon's protectiveness of Margaret, strengthening his resolution to end his acquaintance with Christine. The botched phone conversation with Mrs. Welch and Caton's evasiveness over the publication date of the article makes Dixon's job situation seem tenuous, even as he begins to work hard to keep it.

Christine and Dixon agree at tea that they will each do the "right thing" and honor their attachments to Bertrand and Margaret, respectively. However, the outcome, even though it was what he had planned, is unsatisfying to Dixon, and he takes refuge by being passive about things. Dixon reasons that it is no use wishing that Margaret had been born with Christine's looks, because then Margaret wouldn't have turned out to be Margaret at all, but presumably someone like Christine. This time, however, Dixon is less compassionate toward those with bad luck. He reasons that Margaret is the victim of bad luck, but that does not make him feel any more compassionate toward her.

With the opening of Chapter 20, Dixon's acceptance of his degraded situation seems complete. The text of his "Merrie England" lecture seems to come straight out of Welch's mouth, and subscribes to the very class dynamic that Dixon has been resisting for the entire novel. To top this off, Bertrand comes to Dixon's room to yell at him for pursuing Christine, and to claim Christine, and all women like her, as his birthright. The writer and scholar David Lodge points out, however, that this moment, when Dixon's fortunes hit rock-bottom, is also the first moment in the text where Dixon's thoughts match Dixon's actions. Instead of thinking something scathing about Bertrand and keeping it to himself, Dixon finally articulates devastating insults, and even knocks his rival down. That Dixon's fortunes are looking up is confirmed by the entrance of Michie, who now display a respect for the victorious Dixon that he has not during any of their student-teacher conversations.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us