Mary Kate's Reviews > A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
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May 15, 2008

it was amazing
Recommended to Mary by: BARWICK
Recommended for: Anyone with a sense of humor
Read in April, 2008

A Confederacy of Dunces is a great comedic book with tremendous amount of detail that makes the reader feel as if they are actually set in the 1950s and standing on Canal Street, at the heart of New Orleans. John Kennedy Toole creates a believable scene, with landmarks such as Bay St. Louis, St. Louis Cathedral and real streets such as Canal St. and St. Charles Ave. These landmarks create a sense of comfort for readers who are familiar of the region. Toole was inspired by his own life while writing the book, which is another reason why A Confederacy of Dunces seems so descriptive and real. The theme of the book is the deceiving stereotypes of the 1950s including homosexuals, black Americans and obese Americans. Despite its nearly 400 page frame, the book is not only interesting, but it is subtly seductive, leaving you wanting more when it is put down.
A Confederacy of Dunces is about the seemingly ruthless protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly who you can only feel sorry for. Ignatius has a master’s degree in medieval studies, but has no job. Instead, he lives with his mother in a small home in New Orleans, just like Toole did in his real life. A meeting of these characters plus Ignatius and his mother start the story off with an impact. Patrolman Mancuso tries to arrest Ignatius for looking suspicious, and ends up taking in Claude Robichaux, an older man and Jones, a black man. The story names many characters that seem unimportant at the beginning, but they end up having vital roles to the novel. They each have individual stories in the beginning, but somehow tie in at the end, which is one reason why A Confederacy of Dunces is such a Great American Novel.
After a peculiar night that consisted of Ignatius and his mother becoming intoxicated at a local nightclub, his mother crashes their 1946 Plymouth into a building off St. Anne Street. The damages of the car accident cost $1200, and neither of them currently have a job. John Kennedy Toole uses some of his own personal experience to help write the story. Ignatius gets his first job at a suffering men’s clothing warehouse: Levy Pants. Toole also worked at a men’s clothing warehouse, and wrote on the subject with personal experience. Other than the money issue in the Reilly household, Ignatius got the job to prove to Myrna Minkoff, his New York yuppie “arch nemesis”, that he writes every so often, that he is doing more than just sitting at home all day and making a difference in the world. Ignatius becomes very comfortable at Levy Pants, so at ease that he begins to conduct work for his own selfish comfort. He spends a lot of time making a sign at his desk and a cross that took weeks to complete. Ignatius explores the factory itself and begins to conduct a “Crusade of Moorish Dignity” against the administration. This fails and he is eventually fired.
His next job is at a hot dog vending company called “Paradise Vendors”. It is a failing small business that Ignatius only makes worse by eating more hot dogs than actually selling them. Toole reportedly worked in the French Quarter as a tamale vendor, so it is no wonder why the detail about the hot dog cart seems so specific. Ignatius meets characters along the way such as Dorian Greene: a rich, flamboyant, and mannered man who is persuaded by Ignatius into joining a new political party made up of homosexuals. Dorian is first introduced in this way to carry on the underlying theme of stereotypes that Toole sticks with through the entire book. Ignatius is only molested by three lesbian women, and kicked out of his own rally.
Other story lines go on in novel including Patrolman Mancuso receiving punishment for failing to bring in truly suspicious characters. He has to wear a different costume every day until he brings the sergeant a real suspicious character. Another story line is about Ignatius’s mother and Claude Robichaux’s romance and friendship with Patrolman Mancuso’s headstrong aunt named Santa Bataglia. The last story line is about Jones getting a terrible job at the same nightclub that Ignatius and his mother were when they crashed their car. Jones receives far below minimum wage for a hard working job, employed by a truly cruel woman, Lana Lee, that does pornography for high school kids as a side job. Jones tries to sabotage his boss, which causes her to delay her pictures deliveries until later, making the deliverer wait with the pictures longer than usual, having no choice but to store it in this fat man’s (Ignatius) hot dog vending cart.
Mancuso becomes the joke of all patrolmen, Mrs. Reilly and Claude strengthen their relationship while realizing that Ignatius might be a crazy communist, Jones suspects some funny business going on with his cruel boss, and Ignatius tries to keep his job while making Myrna “minx” Minkoff jealous. Ignatius by this time becomes a real famous name in the New Orleans society. Jones and Lana Lee want to know who this strange man is that is making such a wave in New Orleans. Ignatius finds the pictures in his vending machine wanting to know who it is, and tries to find her. All stories collide and a very unsuspecting ending occurs, which you can only find out once you read it.
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04/02 marked as: read

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Pretty comprehensive. Makes me remember details of the story line that I forgot.


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