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Lucky Jim

Kingsley Amis

Chapter 3

Chapter 2

Chapter 4

Summary

Michie, a history student, stops Dixon to inquire about the syllabus for Dixon's special honors subject course in the following fall. Dixon claims the papers are in his room, but he has not actually worked out what he will be teaching. Dixon is planning his special subject in to attract a sufficient number of students without taking them from Welch's classes, and in part because he wants to figure out how to insure that Michie does not take the class, and that three attractive female students do. Additionally, Dixon is unsure whether he will still be at the college the next fall. Michie offers lengthy suggestions about the course, while Dixon avoids the issue to avoid displaying his ignorance.

The two men part at the foot of College Road and Dixon walks to his room in a boardinghouse. His fellow tenants are Alfred Beesley, an assistant lecturer in the English Department, Bill Atkinson, an insurance salesman, and Evan Johns a staff member at the college and an oboe player at Professor Welch's concerts. Waiting for Dixon is a letter from Dr. L. S. Caton announcing the acceptance of Dixon's academic article in Caton's new academic journal. Dixon proceeds to deface the photo on the cover of one of Johns's magazines because Johns is a suck-up whom Dixon doesn't like.

Beesley comes home and Dixon tells him about the acceptance of his article. Beesley suggests that L.S. Caton's vaguely worded note will not be enough to guarantee Dixon's job security. The two men sit down to tea served by Miss Cutler, the housekeeper, and Bill Atkinson comes in. Beesley asks Dixon first if Dixon's article is any good, and then why Dixon decided to take up medieval studies. Dixon is surprised that Beesley would assume that Dixon was taking either the paper or his career seriously. Dixon has become a medievalist because the medieval coursework was easier at his college.

Beesley leaves and Dixon asks Atkinson to phone him at the Welches' on Sunday to give Dixon an excuse to leave the get-together early. At this moment, Johns arrives in the room. Dixon is unsure if Johns, a friend of both of the Welches, has overheard the conversation. Johns will be going to the Welches for the weekend as well, but Dixon has resolved to take the bus rather than ride with Johns. Dixon walks to the bus stop feeling optimistic and energized by the business of the city center. He looks forward to giving Margaret a book of verse he's bought for her.

Analysis

The beginning of Chapter 3 marks one of the few explicit reference to World War II in Lucky Jim. We learn that Dixon's history student Michie commanded a tank troop during the war, while Dixon saw no war action in his post as an Royal Air Force corporal in Western Scotland. These brief details continue the novel's attempt to expose ineffective hierarchies—Dixon seems well aware of the irony that he commands Michie in the post-war setting of the college, even though Michie held a higher and more dangerous position during the war.

Michie is the only student we see Dixon interact with in the novel, and the scenes involving Michie turn up another comic incongruity: while the studious Michie expects that teaching and learning are based on academic concerns, Dixon actually plans his classes around his desire to have three pretty female students in his class. The pettiness behind many university decisions is further evidenced throughout the novel. Nothing is straightforward in Dixon's interactions with other students and faculty. When Beesley advises Dixon that Caton's acceptance of Dixon's article is not concrete enough, for example, Dixon immediately wonders whether the advice is sound, or the product of Beesley's disappointment about his own job-rejection letter.

Bill Atkinson, who is introduced in this chapter, is so far the one character who is completely straightforward. Bill treats everything and everyone around him with a skepticism that borders on hatred. Dixon claims to admire him "for his air of detesting everything that presented itself to his senses" but Atkinson also contrasts with the other characters in that his emotions and motives are uncomplicated and easily read from his outward features. But when Dixon attempts to be as straightforward as Atkinson by explaining honestly to Beesley that he doesn't take his article or career choice seriously, he is met with Beesley's quiet disapproval and is warned not to be so honest with Welch.

We begin to realize the unreliability of a narrative that focuses solely on Dixon's viewpoint in Chapter 3. Dixon seems annoyed by having to guess at the motivations of others, yet he disfigures the cover of Evan Johns' magazine for no reason other than the fact that he dislikes Johns. This discrepancy between Dixon's beliefs and actions becomes even more apparent when we later see Dixon wondering what he has done to deserve Johns' retaliation.

Just as Chapter 2 ended with Dixon's vision of London, Chapter 3 ends with Dixon feeling energized and optimistic due to his brief walk through the rush-hour business of the local city center. Evidently, Dixon is happiest when in an urban setting.

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