A Confederacy of Dunces: Chapter 13
Summary of Chapter Thirteen
Ignatius wakes up in a hospital with his mother yelling at him they are ruined. She shows him the newspaper headline, “WILD INCIDENT ON BOURBON STREET” describing the attack on Ignatius by a bird and the arrest of Lana Lee for a school pornography ring. Ignatius calls it “the most dismal night of my life” (p. 396) saying Fortuna cannot bring him much lower. Mrs. Reilly weeps. She had Mancuso trail Ignatius. She pronounces him crazy and hands him back his volume of Boethius captured in the raid. Claude comes to pay his hospital bill.
Mr. Clyde fires Ignatius when he sees the newspaper. He calls the Reilly house to get his pirate outfit back. Dr. Talc is having a hard time because his students got hold of Ignatius’s evaluation. He is the butt of jokes on campus. He decides he will have to produce Ignatius to quell the rumors. On second thought, Ignatius would cause fresh trouble. He will have to live with it. The Reillys’ neighbors are working on a petition to get them to move. Mancuso, on the other hand, is about to get a promotion. George finally gets caught by the police.
Lana Lee is in jail with the three lesbian women. Dorian is busy renting out his house and moving because the police had again arrested his housemates, Liz, Betty, and Frieda. Jones and Darlene are out of jobs and the Night of Joy is shut down. Ignatius had been “the kiss of death” for all of them (p. 409). Jones decides after all, things could be worse: he could be “that fat mother” (p. 412). Gus Levy is happy to have found Reilly in the newspaper article; maybe that will prove he is a troublemaker. He tells his wife she ought to rehabilitate him. Levy goes to the Reilly house and talks to the neighbor who tells him Ignatius’s history. She says Ignatius was all right until his dog died when he was a boy. The priest would not let him have a funeral. Levy is depressed by hearing Ignatius’s story, especially that he was really proud of working at Levy Pants. When Ignatius and Mrs. Reilly come home, Levy witnesses them fighting. She tells her son she will marry Claude who is at least nice to her.
Levy interrupts and asks if Ignatius wrote the letter that is going to ruin him. Then the phone rings and Clyde fires Ignatius. Levy begins to feel sorry for him, especially since his mother is yelling and hitting him. Ignatius tells Levy that Miss Trixie wrote the letter. Levy leaves. Mrs. Reilly warns he could go to prison for what he did. Levy next visits Miss Trixie’s house and finds a mess of scraps and junk. When he asks if she wrote the letter, she confesses because she can’t remember. Levy decides his legal case will be that he will get Miss Trixie declared incompetent.
Gus Levy gets an inspiration to change Levy Pants to Levy Shorts and to take charge again. Mrs. Levy begins to admire him once again. He decides to give the first Levy Foundation Award to Jones and to hire him.
Commentary on Chapter Thirteen
This chapter sums up the action and fate of all the characters except for Ignatius who will be dealt with in the last chapter. Everyone gets their due, although Dr. Talc is paying a heavy price for his chronic neglect of students.
The tone changes a bit in this chapter towards the tragic, especially in the scenes with Ignatius and his mother. She accuses him: “You learnt everything, Ignatius, except how to be a human being” (p. 427). This is tempered by Levy’s pity and understanding of Ignatius. In the end, Levy figures out that Miss Trixie did not write the letter, but he also realizes that Ignatius ultimately did no harm:” He had saved himself, Miss Trixie, and Mr. Levy, too, in his own kook way” (p. 442). Ignatius’s actions mean Miss Trixie will be declared incompetent and get to retire. He also forced Levy to take an interest in his own business. He has been the cause of Mancuso’s success, and of Jones’s liberation from Lana Lee. He has brought his mother to remarry. He is the sort of scapegoat figure who points out the sins of society and pays for them.