A Confederacy of Dunces | Study Guide

John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

I–III

Mrs. Irene Reilly, Claude Robichaux, and Santa Battaglia gather for a meal. Santa and Robichaux encourage Mrs. Reilly to have Ignatius locked away in a mental hospital. Mrs. Reilly wants to give Ignatius another chance. The three of them go to a movie, where Robichaux places his hand on Mrs. Reilly's. She feels trapped and begins to cry while thinking of her son and their debts.

Ignatius writes of his plan to "Save the World Through Degeneracy." According to the plan, once degenerates infiltrate the military and the government, countries will fall apart and there will be peace. Additionally, these degenerates would not know how to use nuclear weapons or bombs and they would decay from disuse.

Mrs. Levy returns Miss Trixie to the factory, to the great displeasure of both Miss Trixie and Mr. Gomez Gonzalez. Miss Trixie feels tricked because she believed she was retired. Gonzalez shows Mr. Levy a letter from a client threatening to sue him for libel because of a letter the client believes Mr. Levy sent. Mr. Levy begins to suspect the letter was written by Ignatius. Mrs. Levy at first doesn't believe Mr. Levy's accusation against Ignatius, but she changes her tune when she realizes the lawsuit could send her to the poorhouse. Mrs. Levy is convinced she has done a good deed for Miss Trixie and reflects that her daughters are proud of her.

IV

George, having hatched a plot to store his packages in Ignatius's hotdog cart, helps Ignatius when the cart is stuck on a streetcar track. George then claims that his packages contain school supplies and that he needs Ignatius to carry them in his cart. They strike a deal where George pays Ignatius $2 per day to store the brown paper packages. Despite George's protests, Ignatius opens the envelope to find the pornographic photo of Lana Lee with her face hidden behind a large Boethius book. Ignatius is immediately entranced by the woman. Ignatius uses the addresses written on the packages and goes to the of Night of Joy. Lana and Darlene insult Ignatius for his intellectualism after he asks them if either have read Boethius. Burma Jones tells Ignatius about Darlene's upcoming Southern Belle striptease act.

Back at home, Ignatius finds his mother whispering into the telephone to Santa. She's talking about potentially sending Ignatius to a mental hospital. When Mrs. Reilly hangs up the phone, she greets Ignatius by sticking her fingers into his pockets looking for money. To her dismay she finds the pornographic photo and begins to cry. Ignatius answers a phone call from Mr. Levy. He pretends to be someone else and tells Mr. Levy that Ignatius is in a state mental hospital. Ignatius retreats to his room, convinced his life is getting better.

Analysis

This chapter cements the dissonance between characters. Ignatius believes his life is getting better, while his mother seems increasingly open to having him committed to a mental hospital.

Mrs. Levy's attempt to help Miss Trixie ends with Trixie returning to the exact situation she had been in previously. Mrs. Levy's attempt at doing good is hollow and meaningless. It is done for selfish reasons and completely fails to take into account what might actually help Miss Trixie. Mrs. Levy's hypocrisy furthers the irony of the text: There seem to be few ways people can progress. Moreover, characters' attempts at doing good are in reality absurd and only create suffering.

Ignatius thinks he is in control of the situation, but there are many forces beginning to gather against him. Jones's attempt at sabotaging Lana by writing the address of the Night of Joy on the illegal packages begins to come to fruition. The fact that it is Ignatius who finds the clue is unexpected, but it plays into Jones's idea that Ignatius would be the perfect person to bring chaos to the Night of Joy. Jones is delighted with his good luck when Ignatius turns up at the Night of Joy. Echoing the theme of fate that wends throughout the story, this turn of events suggests that fate may finally be on Jones's side. Ironically, Ignatius is convinced that fate is now leading him in a positive direction, since he has found an image—Lana's obscene photo—of a woman he might connect with. Ignatius who is resolutely asexual, in contrast with sex-obsessed Myrna, is attracted to the photo because of the presence of Boethius's book. This reinforces Ignatius's inability to connect on a human level, while putting an ironic spin on his fascination with medieval philosophy.

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