A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

A Pulitzer winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces had me locked in from the beginning.  It’s a comedic tale of Ignatious Reilly and his mishaps in New Orleans.  He is a peculiar man, set in his thoughts and ways. He wears a green hunting cap at all times to protect his ears from noise and climate with the built-in muffs.  He is overtly religious and pushes his thoughts onto others by explaining their faults and calling them ‘mongoloids’. The ease of his harsh attitude is one of the great humors in the novel. He is a graduate of higher education, nevertheless, an unemployed son living with his poor mother.

Ignatious lives with his mother in a run-down house in New Orleans, his father passed some twenty years before.  While waiting for his mother during a shopping excursion, Ignatious was stopped by a policeman who attempted to arrest him for vagrancy.  His mother was so upset, she backed her car into a building and was liable for the damages.  With no other means of income to pay for the damage, Ignatious was sent out to finally find a  job.  His previous attempts at employment had found him banned from the public library, so he was not exactly thrilled to find himself stomping the streets for a job.

Myrna Minx was a cohort of Ignatious from his college days.  She pushed political agendas and fought social injustice.  As ignatious wandered through his journey of employment, he penned and received letters from Myrna in New York, trying to out-do each other in their absurd lives.  She always pushed Ignatious to break out of his reclusive shell of his room and sexual repression.

Officer Mercuso attempted to arrest Ignatious in the beginning, he was also the first on the scene when Mrs. Reilly wrecked her car.  He developed a friendly relationship with Mrs. R and introduced her to his Aunt Santa.  Ignatious believed his mother was betraying him by spending time with the family of the ‘mongoloid Mercuso’. Eventually, Santa introduced her to a man, Mr. Robichaux, a retired man who adored Mrs. Reilly.

Jones, an African American worked in the Night of Joy for less than minimum wage to avoid vagrancy.  He was constantly at ends with Ms. Lee, the owner.  She believed she ran into some luck having a worker at a discount who was afraid of losing his job.  At the same time, she was involved with a ‘charity’ which Jones believed was a sham, and he was dedicated to taking her down.

Levy Pants was an old company from which Ignatious gained employment.  He loved the job, he was free to do as he pleased there.  This did not last long as he rallied the factory workers to stage a protest that proved calamitous.

To the embarrassment of his mother, Paradise Hot Dogs offered Ignatious a job as a hot dog vendor.  The portly Ignatiious ate as he pleased and brought home very little pay to his mother to help pay the damages.

Interestingly, all the characters and places were tied together by the end of the story.  Seemingly unrelated, the writer was developing a cast of characters who were all unique and peculiar in their own way.  The humor of each chapter kept the pages turning, a really enjoyable and exciting read!

Rating: *********9/10

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