Your job is to choose a paragraph or sentences from the book to discuss with your group. Your purpose is to help other students by spotlighting something interesting, powerful, funny, puzzling, or important from the text. You can read parts aloud yourself, or ask another group member to read them. Include your reasons for picking the paragraphs or sections you did. Please record the page number and paragraph.
The section we chose to spotlight can be found at the beginning of chapter 4, on page 36:
Dixon ran his eye along the lines of black dots, which seemed to go up and down a good deal, and was able to assure himself that everyone was going to have to sing all the time. He’d had a bad setback twenty minutes ago in some Brahms rubbish which began ten seconds or so of unsupported tenor — more accurately, of unsupported Goldsmith, who’d twice dried up in face of a tricky interval and left him opening and shutting his mouth in silence. He now cautiously reproduced the note Goldsmith was humming and found the effect pleasing rather than the reverse.
— page 36
In this particular section, Dixon found himself at some sort of singing party at Professor Welch’s place, where ‘everybody’s got a real tune to sing.’ Dixon had managed to stay on the background and ‘sing’ along with the rest and his partner Goldsmith, ‘whose tenor voice held enough savage power to obliterate whatever noises Dixon might feel himself impelled to make.’ Dixon, who is quite comfortable by the thought that he doesn’t have to be heard, seems surprised when it is his turn to sing. He continues ‘cautiously’, as he doesn’t like singing at all. In the end, however, he found it ‘pleasing rather than the reverse.’
This section is quite interesting as it reveals much of Dixon’s hypocritical nature, as he can’t sing at all. However, the section also shows that he is lucky: by imitating others he manages to ‘sing’ and eventually even seems to enjoy it. It probably is this contradiction, combined with the wonderful description, that makes this section funny too.
Your job is to find connections between the book you are reading and the outside world. This means connecting what you read with your own life, to what happens at school or in the community, to similar events at other times and places, or to other people or problems. Once you have shared your connection to this section of the book, each member of your group will also relate their own connection to the book, although they may refer to a different passage.
The section we chose to relate to daily life can be found at the beginning of chapter 13, on page 135:
Dixon abruptly made his head vibrate; without tilting it, he moved his lower jaw as far over to one side as he could. His cigarette was smoked right down, so that, after about twentyfive minutes, he not only had no Christine, but no taxi. At that moment a car rounded the corner form the main road and stopped near him where he stood at a lower corner by a side-street. It was a taxi. A voice form the driver’s seat said: ‘Barker?’
‘How do you mean, barker?’
‘Taxi for Barker?’
‘Taxi for name of Barker?’
‘Barker? Oh, you must mean Barclay, don’t you?’
‘Ah, that’s it: Barclay.’
‘Good. We’re nearly ready now. Just back into that side turning, will you? and I’ll be back in a couple of minutes. I may be taking a friend back with me. Don’t let anyone else hire you, mind. I’ll be back.’
‘That’ll be all right, Mr. Barclay.’
Dixon walked briskly back to the portico and looked up the lighted corridor, nerving himself to contemplate going back and trying Christine again. A bend hid all but the first couple of yards of the corridor from his view. Without delay Professor Barclay appeared round this bend, squirming into his overcoat and followed by his wife. Dixon had the sense of having heard him referred to recently in some connexion. Then he glanced up the street; the taxi, in mid-road, was just beginning to reverse cautiously into the side turning, where it would be hidden by an office block. As Barclay came up, it still had several yards to go.
Dixon barred his path. ‘Oh, good evening, Professor Barclay,’ he said in measured tones, as if dealing with a hypnotic subject.
‘Hallo, Dixon. Haven’t seen a taxi wailing for me, have you?’
‘Good evening, Mrs. Barclay… No, I’m afraid I haven’t, Professor.’
— page 135
In this section, Dixon needed a taxi. He had ordered one, but it didn’t turn up. When another taxi comes for ‘Barker’, Dixon said the driver he must have meant Barclay and told him that he is Barclay. Then he told the driver to wait nearby in a side turning since he had to finish something. Then, the real Mr. Barclay and his wife arrive and ask Dixon about the taxi. He tells them that he’s been outside for quite some time but didn’t see a taxi. He had actually deceived Barclay and he had done so well, with luck on his side.
In everyday life, people lie too. Life would be hard without telling a lie now and then for your own good. However, Dixon’s act of deception was quite deliberate, as he knew that his own taxi wouldn’t turn up.
Lying about small things is bad, but not that bad. Lying about bigger things such as one’s identity, on the other hand, can have severe impacts. Luckily for Dixon, luck was on his side when he deceived both the taxi driver and Mr. Barclay.
Your job is to write a list of questions that your group might want to discuss about this part of the book. The best questions will come from your own thoughts, feelings, and ideas about this section of the book. You also need to write your own answers to these questions.
We chose to ‘discuss’ chapter one (pages 5-16).
Where is the chapter set?
The chapter is set at a small university in England. This is the first time we get to know this place. However, the place is not described at all. Towards the end of the chapter, they get in the car and drive to Welch’s house. This setting is not described either.
Did the characters develop in this chapter?
Since this is chapter one, all of the characters are new and in develop in some way. Dixon, however, already proves himself to be rather much of a plain character: nothing about him is special. His thoughts, however, can be quite comical as he imagines himself making faces of disgust about the Professor’s talk. Professor Welch doesn’t really develop either, the only we get to know about him is that he is absent-minded and in fond of old music.
How did Dixon feel in this chapter?
Throughout the book, we get a good view of what Dixon feels as his thoughts comprise a major part of the book. We know from this particular chapter that Dixon doesn’t like academic work at all, and that he wonders how Professor Welch had ever become Professor of History. He also feels nervous in some sense that he has to do whatever Welch expects him to do, as ‘he must try to make Welch like him’ or else get fired. Throughout the passage you can feel Dixon anticipating on what he has to say and at the same time Dixon making fun of Professor Welch.
What part of the chapter is remarkable?
A remarkable passage in chapter one can be found on page 6, where the reader gets a clear view on what Dixon thinks and how he can make fun of what others say:
‘The young fellow playing the viola had the misfortune to turn over two pages at once, and the resulting confusion… my word…’
Quickly deciding on his own word, Dixon said it to himself and then tried to flail his features into some sort of response to humour. Mentally, however, he was making a different face and promising himself he’d make it actually when next alone.
— page 6
How did this chapter influence the rest of the book?
Chapter one always is important because it sets a specific tone for the story. Apart from this, two major events that will follow, the singing club and the lecture about ‘Merrie England’, are mentioned at the end of the chapter. These events will influence the story very much and in chapter one, Dixon said ‘yes’ when he was invited for both events.