A Confederacy of Dunces | Study Guide

John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

I–III

The Levys bring Miss Trixie to their home so that Mrs. Levy can proceed with her "project." Mrs. Levy wants to analyze Trixie's dreams, while Trixie only wants to sleep and continually asks if being at the Levy home means that she is retired.

Patrolman Angelo Mancuso is ill and worries about the potential dishonor of dying of pneumonia in a restroom. Ignatius J. Reilly has given him a copy of The Consolation of Philosophy. Having read the preface, Mancuso knows that the book's author will be tortured. The book depresses Mancuso, who notes that Boethius writes about fate and fortune. Peeping though the crack in the stall door, he sees George writing on his hands. He exits the stall, asks George what he is doing, and attempts to arrest him. George hits him with The Consolidation of Philosophy and escapes. He retrieves his packages from the locker and realizes he still has the Boethius book, which he can give to Lana Lee.

Santa Battaglia invites Mrs. Reilly, Mancuso, and another guest to her home for a party. Mrs. Reilly and Mancuso arrive together, ahead of the anonymous third guest, whom Santa calls "that old man." Mrs. Reilly drinks heavily and complains about Ignatius. Still sick, Mancuso goes to look for some cough medicine. Santa urges Mrs. Reilly to dance with the old man when he arrives and explains that he is rich and could pay off Mrs. Reilly's debt. The old man, Mr. Claude Robichaux, arrives, and Mrs. Reilly realizes he is the man Mancuso arrested instead of arresting Ignatius. Robichaux reiterates that the fault lies with the police, whom he labels as communists. Santa turns the conversation towards the idea of forgiving those who do wrong. She leaves the room to encourage Mrs. Reilly and Robichaux to talk. They discuss Ignatius, and Mrs. Reilly bursts into tears. Robichaux suggests Ignatius had too much education, which may have led him to become a communist. Mrs. Reilly latches onto that idea and accidentally mentions Mancuso. A moment later Mancuso and Santa appear, eliciting shouts from Robichaux. Mrs. Reilly wants to leave, fearing a fight; she and Santa try to convince Robichaux not to be angry with Mancuso. The three of them agree that the whole incident was really Ignatius's fault.

Analysis

Described sarcastically as "a woman of interests and ideals," Mrs. Levy is really only obsessed with herself and her own ideas. Her attempt to "help" Miss Trixie in no way actually addresses Miss Trixie's needs or desires. Mr. Levy understands this; he is willing to argue the point with his wife, although he himself similarly lacks real empathy for Miss Trixie.

Mancuso, far from being consoled by Boethius's work, is depressed by it. The book brings the notion of fate to the surface again, but "fate" turns out to work in the favor of the corrupt Lana Lee, as George stumbles upon a book she can use as a prop for the photo.

Santa's party is filled with tension and scheming. She, Mrs. Reilly, Mancuso, and Robichaux manage to settle their differences by mutually criticizing Ignatius. However, despite Santa's attempts to nudge her guests to eat, dance, and make merry, the others remain morose. Mrs. Reilly can't stop thinking about Ignatius, eventually declaring "Mothers got a hard road." It's undeniably true that Ignatius is a cause of chaos and concern for Mrs. Reilly. However, it's also impossible for readers to sympathize with Mrs. Reilly, who has so clearly contributed to Ignatius's many flaws.

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