A Confederacy of Dunces | Study Guide

John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

Suspecting that Mr. Levy is discovering his lies, Ignatius fears that he has failed to secure a potential comrade. He frames Myrna Minkoff and his mother as disloyal. Mrs. Irene Reilly knows Ignatius wrote the letter and calls Santa Battaglia, admitting she is finally ready to send him to the mental hospital. She arranges for an ambulance to take him to the hospital and for him to be committed. She comes to say goodbye to Ignatius, asks him for a kiss, and says she is sorry it has to end like this. She tells him she loves him and leaves. Ignatius begins to understand that some big plan is afoot. Eventually he realizes that he will likely be sent to a psychiatric ward.

Ignatius knows he must escape. As he is preparing to leave, Myrna arrives. She has driven down from New York. He feels the urge to kill her but realizes she is his only escape. Ignatius tells Myrna he sees the worth of her guidance, and she agrees he should leave the house. He doesn't tell Myrna what is about to happen to him and they pack and reflect on his life in the house.

As they leave the house, the ambulance arrives with "Charity Hospital" printed on the side. Myrna and Ignatius drive away, heading back to New York. Ignatius is grateful that Myrna came to rescue him and wonders where his life will lead next. The novel closes with Ignatius taking Myrna's hair and pressing it to his mouth.

Analysis

Ignatius begins to recognize the reality of his situation. His powers of reasoning actually lead him to an accurate conclusion about what is going on in his own life. This suggests the possibility that some significant change is underway in Ignatius.

When Myrna arrives, the two characters continue to argue and insult each other, as is their wont. Myrna is enthusiastic about the prospect of saving Ignatius, bringing to mind Mrs. Levy's insincere and self-serving attempt to "help" Miss Trixie. However, Myrna really does act as a savior: She literally and figuratively gets Ignatius out of the desperate situation he is stuck in. As they head to New York, Ignatius is attracted to her hair, which his takes into his hands and presses to his mouth. This gesture suggests another possible change in Ignatius, evoking the possibility of a reawakened, consciously acknowledged sexual drive. But Ignatius also thinks of Fortuna as they drive away, wondering what she has in store for him next. This leaves open the distinct possibility that Ignatius will never escape his habits of thought.

The novel ends on a decidedly ambiguous note. Some characters have received justice, and Ignatius may be at the beginning of a metamorphosis. But nothing is clearly resolved. The overwhelming cynicism of the novel is alleviated slightly as Ignatius and Myrna drive off into the future, but neither of the characters is truly redeemed.

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