On the dance floor, Carol speaks frankly to Dixon. She asks him what the two of them should do about the Bertrand situation, given that Dixon is attracted to Christine and Carol is having an affair with Bertrand. Carol warns Dixon not to waste more time on Margaret, who she says will pull Dixon down with her. Carol explains her own anger at Bertrand's mistreatment of her that evening, and Dixon is impressed by Carol's straightforward explanations, even more so when she tells him that she has told her husband about Bertrand.
Carol urges Dixon to act on his desires with Christine. When Dixon tells her he would rather not try it because he thinks Christine is of his class, Carol accuses him of being reverential about Christine, and wanting to have sex with her but believing he cannot. Dixon and Carol return to the bar to see Gore- Urquhart still in the same position, with Bertrand and Margaret on either side of him. Christine looks bored. Carol encourages Dixon to save Christine from her boredom. Dixon approaches the table and begins talking to Christine, who justifies Bertrand by saying that he did come mainly to talk to Gore-Urquhart. At this moment, Bertrand gets up from the table and walks over to talk to Carol, who is still at the bar. Dixon tells Christine that he is going outside to get a taxi, and that she should come out in fifteen minutes and he will take her back to the Welches'. Dixon leaves the dance to look for a telephone.
Dixon steps outside to wait for the taxi he's ordered, excited by the uncharacteristically decisive action he's just taken in asking Christine to let him take her home. A taxi pulls up for Professor Barclay, and Dixon identifies himself as Barclay, asking the driver to wait around the corner. Professor Barclay and his wife emerge, and Dixon begins talking to them so that they will not notice their taxi. Dixon walks with the Barclays down the road a bit, then sees Christine come outside and walk toward him. Christine asks Dixon if he has gotten a cab yet, and he quickly keeps her from saying more and leads her away from the Barclays. The cab Dixon has ordered pulls out into the road, and Dixon runs over to the driver and tells him to wait around the block for them. He tells the Barclays that the driver has told Dixon he could not stay. Dixon and Christine meet the taxi around the block. Dixon gives the driver the Welches' address and, when the driver protests that he cannot go that far, orders him to stop at the gas station near campus.
Carol and Dixon's conversation in Chapter 12 is interesting primarily because Carol speaks frankly and exposes Dixon's own insincerity and hypocrisies. When Carol calls Dixon on his feigned indifference to Christine, a development in Dixon's character ensues. When Carol admits that her frankness extends even to telling her husband of her affair with Bertrand, Dixon realizes how little he really sees about people. Carol also manages to underscore the hypocrisy of Dixon's own practice of pretending not to be thinking the exact thoughts that he is thinking.
Carol also exposes the hypocrisy of the period's social mores when she reproaches young people for acting as if obligations played as much of a role as sexual attraction in intimate relationships. Carol views this as self-importance and "false maturity." She therefore manages to convince Dixon that pursuing Christine and dumping Margaret is his "moral duty."
Dixon's attempts to take Christine home early represent his first fully controlled, consciously decisive action of the novel. Well aware of this, Dixon feels that the course of his life could change and recognizes that he values change over stasis. Dixon's pessimism does not disappear, however, and so his emotion in this chapter are always a mix, as when he feels, within the space of just a few minutes, that he has humiliated himself even more than usual and is then romantically excited.
The taxi scene offers some situational comic relief and also prolongs the suspense about whether Christine will accept Dixon's offer. The fact that Christine does ultimately appear allows Dixon to translate his newly decisive actions into even more decisive actions, as he orders the cab driver to take them to the Welch home and stop for gas, even though the cab driver is not supposed to do either. Thus we see that Dixon's freedom from the relationships that bind him is contingent on his learning to control others as well.
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