A Confederacy of Dunces: Chapter 4
Summary of Chapter Four
Ignatius makes himself at home among the filing cabinets at Levy Pants with a hand lettered sign saying “Department of Research and Reference: I. J. Reilly” (p. 97). Miss Trixie is confused and keeps calling Ignatius “Gloria,” the name of the girl who was fired. When Ignatius falls off a stool while filing, he screams and makes a scene. Mr. Gonzalez is completely intimidated by Ignatius and is easily talked into doing whatever he tells him to do in order to pacify him. When Miss Trixie and Gonzalez try to help Ignatius get up off the floor, they end up in a heap together. Mr. Levy comes in at that point and asks what is going on. Ignatius announces to Levy that he has taken an interest in his business and will help him with innovations. Levy ignores Ignatius and tries to do the essential tasks with Gonzalez so he can get out because the office depresses him. Gonzalez tells him he needs to sign a letter to one client who is unhappy with a shipment of pants that were only two feet long in the leg. Levy tells Gonzalez to sign the letter and leaves as fast as he can.
As Miss Trixie snores on the floor by the filing cabinets and Gonzalez goes to the factory to talk to a foreman, Ignatius reads the letter to Abelman’s Dry Goods. He decides to alter it to be more militant and aggressive. Ignatius’s version is full of insults and addresses Abelman as “Mongoloid, Esq.” (p. 105). He sends it out in the mail.
Mrs. Reilly speaks on the phone to Santa Battaglia, Patrolman Mancuso’s aunt, who tells her she has a secret admirer, an old man who saw her and wants to know her name. She makes a date to go bowling with them, though Ignatius will be afraid to be left alone at night.
Mrs. Levy is in her elegant home fighting off boredom with her many social causes. The Levys are perpetually arguing and engaging in emotional blackmail. She accuses him of letting his father’s successful business go to ruin because of his laziness. He says the whole plant is out of date and resents his deceased father who would not let him modernize. She then accuses him of never being a father to their daughters Susan and Sandra. He thinks they are spoiled. The arguments are usually a draw, with each threatening some further action.
Ignatius is worried because his mother is going out every night. He decides to work on his current notes, “The Journal of a Working Boy.” He spells out the changes he is making in Levy Pants without any opposition. He comes in late and has a new filing system whereby he throws all the old yellow files in the wastebasket. He calls Miss Trixie “La Trixie” and says she has started wearing his hunting cap. He thinks he should do something for the factory workers next. He wants to prove his ability to engage in social action to Myrna. When Mrs. Reilly comes in to the house with Angelo Mancuso and his aunt Santa, Ignatius sneaks out of the back and lets out the air in Mancuso’s tires. He looks in the kitchen window to see the trio dancing to music on the radio. Santa is gray-haired but moves like a young sexy woman. Ignatius is disgusted.
Commentary on Chapter Four
More fine comic characters are added. Some critics speak of Ignatius as a picaresque hero, meaning he has one adventure after another, none of them adding up to a meaningful plot, since the emphasis is solely on the comedy. He goes from scene to scene, job to job, making a mess and commenting on the corruption of society. Miss Trixie with her dementia seems quite rational in some ways since she is trying to convince the company to retire her. Santa Battaglia is an overweight hippie grandmother with a husky voice, always trying to get Irene Reilly away from her son and into her own life. She gets Irene out of the house, gets her to bowl and dance and finally date a man. Mancuso and Santa turn out to be Ignatius’s chief enemies as they try to rescue the mother from the dominating clutches of the son.
Ignatius’s attempts to fix Levy Pants goes unnoticed for a while, since Gonzalez is a softie and the boss does not care about the place. The letter he alters and sends out will prove to be an important event in the story. The Levys are standard middle class comic husband and wife. The wife is pretentious and nagging. Gus Levy is sarcastic and sees through her. Her one weapon is their children. She threatens to tell the girls about him if he does not follow her wishes.