A Confederacy of Dunces | Study Guide

John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

I–II

Mrs. Levy continues to try to improve Miss Trixie's lot in life. Mr. Levy continues to argue with his wife, saying that Miss Trixie only wants to retire and that Mrs. Levy's actions are "like torturing a dumb animal." Mr. Levy suggests that he wants to sell off Levy Pants, which is outdated and too far from the highway to remain profitable. He takes a bath and contemplates how he could dump the property on an unsuspecting buyer.

Back at Mattie's Rumble Inn, Burma Jones and Mr. Watson discuss sabotage once again. Jones notes that his sabotage efforts have had little effect so far, and he tells Watson about writing the Night of Joy's address on the packages he found. Watson urges Jones to go to the police, but Jones replies that he is scared of the police and that Lana likely has connections with the police force. Jones then thinks of using Ignatius J. Reilly to wreak havoc at the Night of Joy.

III

Ignatius's indigestion is getting worse. He is aware that the cause is his overconsumption of hot dogs, but he chooses to focus on "other, subtler reasons." As usual, he attributes his health problems to his mother, who has been asking him questions about his politics. He has also been dreaming about Myrna Minkoff. In his dreams, she heckles and harasses him.

While at work selling hot dogs, Ignatius visits an art show, where he insults the artists and other visitors. He then runs into the man who bought Mrs. Reilly's hat, Dorian Greene, who is openly and flamboyantly gay. Ignatius calls Green a "fop" and a "degenerate." Greene taunts Ignatius and slyly suggest that he and his friends—that is, the homosexual community—have friends in high places. He insults Ignatius for his tackiness and obesity, and the two enter into a physical altercation. They eventually decide to avoid involving the authorities. They then see a man dressed as a sailor, who turns out to be one of Greene's friends. This prompts Ignatius to wonder how many members of the military might be gay. He imagines achieving world peace by filling the military with homosexuals. Ignatius assumes that openly gay officers and troops would replace war with orgies, parties, and dancing. Fantasizing about leading such a movement, and thus having something to lord over Myrna Minkoff, Ignatius proposes forming a new political party. He plans to start by holding a huge rally and recruits Greene to organize it.

No longer able to store his packages at the bus station, George looks for another solution. Walking through the French Quarter, he witnesses the fight between Ignatius and Greene. He boards a bus and passes the Night of Joy, where he sees Lana Lee and Burma Jones outside. George notes with admiration how Jones flicks a cigarette butt at Lana, barely missing her hair. Continuing on his bus journey, George comes up with the idea of using Ignatius's hot dog cart to hold the packages.

Analysis

Mr. Levy's contemplations in the bath draw a parallel between him and Ignatius. Like Ignatius, Levy is lazy, self-absorbed, and willing to exploit others. He sees that his wife is using and abusing Miss Trixie, but he has done the same thing by keeping her at work when she wants to retire. Knowing that his business is becoming worthless, he thinks about what "poor buyer" he might dump it on.

Ignatius goes to the art show because he thinks there may be something there to offend him. This echoes Ignatius's habit of watching TV shows and movies that he then derides. Ignatius criticizes popular culture, which he finds offensive, but is also obsessively drawn to it. Though he claims to have refined tastes, his real interest is in watching things that offend him so that he can complain about and criticize them. In this way, he represents the flip side of Lana's "refined" customers, who are also attracted by offensive material. Ignatius is clearly no better than they are, despite the fact that he and they would seem to be polar opposites

Dorian Greene is clearly meant to call to mind the famous character Dorian Gray, from a novel by Irish writer Oscar Wilde. Wilde's famously narcissistic and hedonistic character is obsessed with his own appearance and drawn to vice and debauchery. Ignatius is repulsed by Dorian Greene, who, like Wilde's character, is hedonistic. But Ignatius is willing to join forces with Dorian Greene in order to pursue his plan to outshine Myrna.

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