A Confederacy of Dunces | Study Guide

John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces | Chapter 7 | Summary




Ignatius J. Reilly is forced by his mother to go out and look for employment. He reluctantly agrees to work for an hour as a hot dog seller with Paradise Vendors after finding himself unable to pay for the four hot dogs he eats. As he pushes the vending cart, he continues to eat hot dogs himself. He then runs into George, but refuses to sell him a hot dog. They end up in a screaming match, prompting onlookers to criticize hot dog vendors as bums. Upset and offended, Ignatius takes his cart back to the owner of Paradise Vendors, Mr. Clyde. To account for the many hot dogs he has eaten, Ignatius claims George stole them. Clyde is reluctant to believe him at first, but he is finally convinced and offers Ignatius a permanent job.

At work at the Night of Joy, Burma Jones makes an attempt at sabotage by leaving streaks of dust on the floor as he mops. He argues with Lana Lee, saying that his meager wage will only result in mediocre results. Lana works on assembling her collection of props for the obscene teacher photo, noting she needs a book (though she refuses to pay to buy one), and considers how to best use Darlene. She wants Darlene to go back to her work on the stool rather than do her act with the bird. Darlene protests, explaining that her bird act will involve stripping and is sure to be a hit. Jones, having watched Darlene rehearse with the bird and knowing how bad the act is, sees pushing for the act as a means of sabotage. He joins forces with Darlene to convince Lana to let her try the act.


Mrs. Reilly tells Santa Battaglia of her despair over Ignatius and his new hot dog vending job, which she sees as shameful. She recalls an idealized image of Ignatius as an adorable child, loved by the nuns who taught him. Santa encourages Mrs. Reilly to pursue romance, but Mrs. Reilly insists she doesn't want a man. Her concern is Ignatius. Meanwhile, Ignatius lolls in the bathtub and contemplates his new job. He expects it to be pleasant; he plans to simply park the cart and write notes for his Journal. He reluctantly opens an envelope from Myrna Minkoff, which contains a poster advertising a lecture she is giving and a petition to "save America from sexual ignorance." Myrna has also included a letter explaining that she has no funding for the movie and has therefore turned to giving lectures. She urges Ignatius to find happiness through sex and encourages him to come to New York. Ignatius writes back telling Myrna that her letter is offensive and predicting that her lecture will be a flop. He tells her that his life has taken a turn for the better with his exciting new job.


Ignatius continues to be dominated by his own gluttony and pomposity, as well as by his mother. Willing first to order hot dogs without having the money to pay for them, and then to eat more hot dogs when he is supposed to be selling them, Ignatius is trapped inside his own pathetic nature. But he is able to bumble along, stumbling into a new job thanks to Clyde's willingness to disregard his suspicion that Ignatius's story about George stealing the hot dogs is made up. As a business owner, Clyde's ultimate concern is continuing to run his business. Because he is in great need of workers, he is willing to blind himself to Ignatius's obvious flaws and lies. The interaction signals the desperate stupidity which someone with profit as a motive might portray.

Burma Jones's alliance with Darlene is cynical and opportunistic. Both characters occupy vulnerable positions in society, which could in theory bring them together in solidarity. However, although Jones harbors no ill will towards Darlene, he ultimately sees her primarily as a means to an end—sabotage.

The dual themes of Mrs. Reilly's domination of and disappointment with Ignatius continue. Myrna's letter enrages Ignatius and elicits an angry response, although it's also clear that he is still drawn to her. The characters' mutual attraction, combined with their mutual inclination to criticize each other, speaks to their inability to enter into real, human relationships.

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