A Confederacy of Dunces: Characters
Miss Annie is a neighbor of the Reillys who yells at Ignatius when he is loud or playing his lute. She is the one who tells Mr. Levy about the main trauma of Ignatius’s childhood—not the death of his father, but the death of his dog.
Santa Battaglia is Patrolman Mancuso’s aunt who becomes friends with Irene Reilly and tries to fix her up with Claude Robichaux. Santa is a wild grandmother who likes to dress and dance in a sexy manner. She has a baritone voice and large breasts. She tries to teach Irene how to be alluring and get back into the dating scene. She is the one who encourages Irene to put Ignatius into a mental hospital.
Mr. Clyde is the cranky owner of Paradise Vendors, a hot dog company. He hires Ignatius because he is desperate but has to threaten him to get him to work. He makes Ignatius wear a pirate costume and sell hot dogs in the French Quarter.
Darlene is the nice but fluff-brained bar waitress in the Night of Joy bar. She listens to Ignatius’s long Greyhound Bus story to get him to buy drinks. Her dream is to be a dancer, and she convinces Lana Lee to let her do a musical number with a cockatoo bird who strips off her clothes.
Frieda, Betty, and Liz
Frieda, Betty, and Liz are lesbian housemates of Dorian in the French Quarter. They are aggressive “dykes” and start fights, often landing themselves in jail. They throw Ignatius out of Dorian’s gay party.
George is juvenile delinquent with acne and flamenco boots who works for Lana Lee in her criminal business of selling pornography to children after school. He calls himself an orphan and says he is picking up packages for the orphans, but we find out he has a normal home with a mother and father who know nothing of his secret life.
Mr. Gonzalez is the easy-going manager of Levy Pants. He is the only reliable worker there and the only one who cares about the company. Mr. Levy dumps all responsibility on him. Gonzalez hires Ignatius because he is desperate for help, and believing he is superior, makes all the changes Ignatius demands. Gonzalez is overly tolerant and democratic to a fault.
Dorian Greene is the gay man the Reillys meet in the bar. He buys Mrs. Reilly’s hat for his used clothing store. He comes from Nebraska, and his folks send him money to live on in New Orleans so he won’t come home. He has a group of gay friends who like to have costume parties. Ignatius goes to one of them to recruit gays for his political party.
Burma Jones is a young black man who is arrested for vagrancy and has to take a job with Lana Lee for less than minimum wage to stay out of jail. He cannot get a good job because he had to help support his mother when he was growing up and did not get an education. He decides to get back at Lana Lee through sabotage, and helps set her up for a police bust. Because he saves Ignatius from being hit by a bus, he becomes a hero, is given an award by the Leon Levy Foundation and a job. Jones’s satiric remarks in black dialect are among the most memorable in the novel.
Lana Lee is the hardboiled owner of Night of Joy bar on Bourbon Street. She is tough as nails without sympathy for anyone and freely exploits Darlene and Jones. She sets up a porno ring for children using nude photos of herself. She prides herself on her gorgeous body but gets busted by propositioning Patrolman Mancuso who is an undercover cop.
Mr. Gus Levy
Gus Levy is the owner of the Levy Pants Factory inherited from his deceased father. He still resents his father for not using his ideas to improve the company, and so he has lost interest. He neglects the business until Ignatius gets him in trouble with a forged letter to a customer who threatens to sue. Gus is actually a nice guy and comes to sympathize with Ignatius. He saves Ignatius from going to jail, becomes reinspired to improve his business, and gives help to Jones.
Mrs. Levy has platinum hair, an immaculate house in the suburbs, and is bored like her husband. She is always trying to undercut her husband Gus because she is angry he is letting the family business go to ruin. She fills her life with projects, such as rehabilitating Miss Trixie, and blackmails Gus with promising to report his misbehavior to their daughters so they will be on her side.
Patrolman Angelo Mancuso
Patrolman Angelo Mancuso tries to arrest Ignatius at the beginning of the story because he looks and acts suspiciously. Mancuso is out on the street as an undercover agent in strange costumes hoping to catch perverts and make his arrest quota. He has a wife and kids to support but is not quite competent in his job and always in trouble with the sergeant. He becomes friends with Irene Reilly, introduces her to his aunt, and the three of them go bowling. He makes his big break by busting Lana Lee.
Myrna Minkoff is the former girlfriend of Ignatius whom he met in graduate school. She is a Jewish intellectual and radical engaged in various causes and rallies in New York. Ignatius says she is not happy unless she is getting arrested at a demonstration. Myrna is sexually liberated and has other activist boyfriends and tries to make Ignatius jealous enough to have sex with her. She sees through him and engages in lengthy argumentative letters. They trade insults but seem to like each other. She drives to New Orleans to rescue him and take him to New York.
Ignatius Reilly, the main character, is overweight, thirty and single, living at home with his mother. He is a momma’s boy and acts helpless to do things for himself. He is afraid to be home alone, to drive a car, or to leave the city. He does not believe he should have to work, since he fancies himself an intellectual, an observer of life, and fills notebooks with his observations on the shortcomings of modern life compared to his favorite medieval period. He rules his life according to certain medieval authors like the nun Hrothswitha and the philosopher Boethius. Boethius is the main influence in his life, and he tries to make everyone read The Consolation of Philosophy as though it is the recent bestseller. Ignatius is sexually undeveloped with an aversion to sexy women though he likes to see them in movies. He does not want to get personally involved. Everywhere he goes he causes trouble because he is a nonconformist and believes he is above the gross commercial lifestyle of the times. He has a running argument in letters with his ex-girlfriend, Myrna, who wants to go to bed with him and get him involved in the social struggles of the day. She keeps psychoanalyzing him as sexually maladjusted and paranoid. Ignatius alternates moods of elation with depression and blames it all on the goddess, Fortuna. He does not take responsibility for his actions and never learns from experience but goes from episode to episode.
Mrs. Irene Reilly
Mrs. Reilly is an alcoholic widow with hennaed hair and too much makeup, who has had to raise Ignatius alone Irene is a down to earth Catholic working class mother, uneducated, slovenly like Ignatius, and is not a good housekeeper or cook. She feeds Ignatius donuts and canned food. She used her savings to educate her son to get a master’s degree and is distressed that he will not go to work to help her out. He lies around the house wanting her to pamper him. Irene loves her son but is not able to understand him or sympathize with him. She cannot interest him in a wife or job. He uses his intellectual superiority to intimidate her. She constantly fights with him and makes demands he is unwilling to meet, and when he becomes a hot dog vendor she thinks he is losing his mind. She tries to commit him to the mental hospital to save him from going to jail over the Levy Pants forged letter. Ignatius constantly belittles her and teases her about her drinking. He resents it when she makes friends with Mancuso and Santa and begins to get her own life apart from him. She thinks of marrying Claude Robichaux, but it is clear Ignatius would be in the way.
Claude Robichaux is the old man in the crowd who defended Ignatius from Patrolman Mancuso, then got arrested for calling Mancuso a communist. He is soon released with the defense that he is a respectable Catholic grandfather. He becomes the suitor of Ignatius’s mother, Irene, and can take care of her since he has a pension from the railroad. He counsels her that Ignatius might be a communist and encourages her to put him in the asylum. In his working-class prejudice, he believes everyone is a communist.
Miss Trixie is the old withered and demented accountant at Levy Pants. She wants desperately to retire, but Mrs. Levy won’t let her go, believing she is saving the old lady and making her feel wanted. Miss Trixie does not remember anything, even to put on her clothes when she comes to work. She likes Ignatius whom she calls Gloria and wears his hat and eats his sandwich with him. Mr. Levy ends up blaming her for the insulting letter to the customer so that Ignatius won’t go to jail, and so she can retire.
Mr. Watson is the mulatto owner of Mattie’s Ramble Inn on the waterfront where Jones goes for a drink after work. He is the one who advises Jones on the strategy of “sabotage” towards difficult people like Lana Lee. He is a middle-class black, owning a business and having a college-educated son.