A Confederacy of Dunces: Chapter 11
Summary of Chapter Eleven
Santa, Mrs. Reilly, and Claude Robichaux speculate on Ignatius’s suspicious politics. He has put up a sign on the house, “Peace to Men of Good Will” (p. 307). Claude says he sounds like a communist, and Irene Reilly is worried. Mancuso had seen Ignatius talking to Dorian Greene; they wonder if he has become gay, although he is not wearing an earring. Santa suggests that Ignatius is crazy and should be sent to the Charity Hospital where they would give him some shock treatment. Irene is interested in this solution. Santa is busy trying to get Claude and Irene together, and Claude mentions he has a pension from the railroad and rental property. The three of them go to a movie where Claude holds Irene’s hand, and she panics, remembering how she was wooed by Mr. Reilly and then gave birth to Ignatius.
Ignatius writes in his journal of the meeting with Dorian and his inspiration to form a new political party to solve “the crises of our times” (p. 315). He wants to “Save the World Though Degeneracy” (pp. 315-16). He imagines a gay president and a gay military too busy with parties to go to battle. Once war is stopped, there will be “global orgies” (p. 316). Comparing his own “godlike mind” (p. 315) to that of Boethius, Ignatius sees a similar role for himself as mentor to the degenerates, as the philosopher Boethius was to Rome. In this way he will best Myrna’s campaign to combine sex and politics.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Levy takes the renovated Miss Trixie back to Levy Pants. Miss Trixie is furious at having to go back to work, and Mr. Gonzalez is heartbroken to see her again. She is wearing high heels and makeup and a short skirt. Mr. Gonzalez gives Mr. Levy a letter from Mr. Abelman who is suing Levy for libel. He includes a copy of Ignatius’s insulting letter. They realize Ignatius wrote the letter. Levy phones the Reilly home and finds out Ignatius is not home.
George goes to Paradise Hot Dogs to find Ignatius. He thinks of him as a perfect front man. He will rent out a bun compartment of his cart so George can stash his packages. Ignatius takes the offered rent money because he wants to go to a movie. He takes one of the packages and opens it to see what is in it, finding pornographic photographs. A naked woman (Lana) is sitting on a desk with a globe, chalk, and a book in front of her face. The book the woman is reading is Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy. Ignatius is thunderstruck. He takes the address on the package and puts it in his pocket. He wants to meet the woman whom he assumes is a destitute intellectual, “a seer and philosopher cast into a hostile century by forces beyond her control” (p. 339). Ignatius makes George watch his cart while he goes to a movie.
Ignatius goes to the address on the package hoping to meet the naked woman, no doubt a “ruined medievalist” (p. 343). Instead, he meets Lana Lee who has Jones kick him out. At home, Mrs. Reilly discovers the pornographic photo in Ignatius’s pocket and begins crying. The phone rings and it is Mr. Levy. Ignatius says on the phone that Ignatius Reilly is not in; he was put into a mental institution. He slams down the phone and goes to his room. He feels Fortuna is finally pointing his wheel upwards. He was able to make money without working and spend the day at the movies. He plans on going back to see Darlene’s act at the Night of Joy, believing she is the woman in the photograph.
Commentary on Chapter Eleven
Ignatius wrongly believes Fortuna is opening doors for him. Instead, all the forces around are converging to make him pay for the havoc he has wrought. He has no idea that his pretense of being committed to a psycho ward is prophetic, with his mother fully behind the idea. It is significant that his doting mother turns against him, for it spells an even more serious downturn in Fortuna’s cycle than he can imagine. For the first time Irene takes seriously the suggestion that Ignatius should be committed to a hospital. Santa makes it clear that if Irene lands Claude for a husband, he will not want Ignatius around. Santa tries to teach Irene how to be appealing to a man, but Irene does all the wrong things, such as pointing out her own deficiencies. Once she gets the point that Claude might want physical affection, she panics, thinking of how she conceived Ignatius after going to the movies with Mr. Reilly.
A lot of references to the movies bring in popular culture at the time. Santa and Irene discuss the film ‘Tammy” with its sentimental view of the Southern plantation. This type of film is disgusting to Ignatius who is used to the high and dignified medieval writers like Boethius. Yet Ignatius is a hypocrite because he takes every dime he earns or can wheedle out of his mother to see films that he criticizes for their overly sexual content. He clearly has revulsion for female sexuality at the same time he is attracted to it. His sexual fantasy of having an affair with Lana Lee, whom he believes to be an unfortunate student of Boethius, shows that he can only picture sex as a sado-masochistic act.
The furor over Ignatius’s sign for peace recalls the demonstrations to end the war in Viet Nam so prevalent in the late 1960s. Those peaceniks were often deemed to be communists trying to tear apart American society. Gus Levy’s business is being destroyed by Ignatius’s vicious letter to Abelman. Mrs. Levy uses every chance she can to sabotage her husband as well, such as forcing him to let her set up the Leon Levi Foundation to rehabilitate down and out people like Miss Trixie.
Ignatius’s lecture to Jones is over the top as far as racial insensitivity goes. He tries to convince him that according to Boethius it does no good to strive to get to the top of the wheel of fortune or try to get out of misfortune. Jones should accept the blessings of poverty because at least Negroes don’t have ulcers worrying about their money. He should “Live contentedly in some hovel” (p. 349). This is part of Toole’s satiric comment on the irrationality of racism.