A Confederacy of Dunces: Chapter 6
Summary of Chapter Six
Mattie’s Ramble Inn is on the Mississippi waterfront and where Jones flees after work. It is run by Mr. Watson, a mulatto. Jones laments to Watson that he is an unskilled worker and must work for Lana Lee or she will tell the “po-lice” (p. 154). Watson has sent his own son to college to be a schoolteacher. Jones says he was not able to go to school because he had to help his mother. Now he is “workin in modern slavery” (p. 155). Watson advises Jones to try “sabotage” against Lana Lee (p. 155). Another man in the bar says where he works they are having really big sabotage. They are planning a demonstration at Levy Pants where they got a big old white man telling them how to do it. Jones remarks that the white man is in trouble with the police and is going to lead them all into jail: “he sound like a crazy white mother” (p. 156).
Gonzalez is at work early and is surprised to see Ignatius show up with a movie camera and a sheet. He goes to the factory and exhorts the workers to get their weapons to storm the office and make demands. One of the workers shouts out the rumor that Ignatius is in trouble with the police. He denies it and unfolds the banner he has made: “Crusade for Moorish Dignity” (p. 161). When two women hold it up, he turns on the movie camera. They make a march with a black choir singing spirituals. Ignatius accidentally drops and smashes the camera, while the workers confront Gonzalez. Some start destroying Ignatius’s decorations. When Ignatius tells them to attack Gonzalez and Miss Trixie, they drop their weapons and go back to the factory.
Mancuso catches a cold from being in the bus station bathroom all day. Mrs. Reilly is upset that Ignatius lost his job and tells him he will be looking for another one the next day. Mrs. Levy nags her husband about how he has thrown his life away. Gus says he had to fire Ignatius for exciting the workers. Mrs. Levy takes up the cause of the workers and says he should raise their salaries. She blames him for firing an idealist. She insists that for recompense she has to take in Miss Trixie to rehabilitate her.
Commentary on Chapter Six
This chapter on race relations makes a demonstration into a circus. First is Gonzalez who is a minority himself but who has made it to management position. He identifies with Mr. Levy, not the workers: “to him they were simply parts of the physical plant of Levy Pants” (p. 158). Ignatius, perhaps like many activists, has his own agenda other than the good of the people. He wants to impress Myrna with a video of his exploits. The workers think perhaps they can get a raise, but it is soon clear when he insists on violence and wants to film it, that he is at best, a nut, at worst, someone wanted by the police. The black workers see right through Ignatius and his motives. His sexual maladjustment is apparent when he gets stimulated when the workers lift him to the table for a speech. In the end, they abandon him and the demonstration. Gus Levy is forced to take action in his company, a rare occurrence that Mrs. Levy uses against him. She threatens to tell their college age daughters that their father is persecuting activists. He makes a deal that she can have Miss Trixie to play with as one of her causes.
The motto on the banner would be incomprehensible to the twentieth century, for it translates black civil rights into medieval terminology. Instead of a demonstration, it is a “crusade” for the “Moors,” the medieval name given to people from Africa. When he fails, Ignatius does not take responsibility but once again blames the frivolous goddess Fortuna and her ever-turning Wheel of Fortune.
The scene in the black waterfront bar is well done. Jones as the uneducated street boy is compared to the son of the bar owner who went to college and became a teacher, an example of blacks joining the middle class. It is Watson who gives the powerless Jones the strategy that the disempowered have always used in his situation: sabotage. The bar patrons give examples of sabotage: the maid who puts too much pepper in the soup; the parking boy who accidentally crashes the nice car. Jones gets the idea and will be trying it out on Lana Lee.