A Confederacy of Dunces: Chapter 9
Summary of Chapter Nine
Mr. Clyde chews Ignatius out for getting him in trouble with the Board of Health. He was seen playing with a cat in the gutter while vending hot dogs. He was pushing his cart in the warehouse district where he could not sell anything. The cat refused the hot dog he offered it. Ignatius admits the only reason he comes to work every day is to escape his increasingly hostile mother. He claims his valve has shut forever. Mr. Clyde decides to send Ignatius on a new route to the French Quarter. Ignatius objects to “that sinkhole of vice” (p. 246).
At home Mrs. Reilly is very upset saying that Ignatius is getting worse every day. He claims he is “in a very bad cycle” (p. 250). He gets a letter from Myrna who comments on his Levy Pants episode that he sounds very “sick” (p. 251). She has a new boyfriend, Ongah, from Kenya, who is “virile and aggressive” (p. 251). She thinks Ignatius is jealous. Ongah is getting a Ph.D. in literature and is a musician and sculptor. She warns Ignatius that he is cracking up. He should do volunteer work and describe any sexual fantasies he has in his next letter. They are all following his progress in her group therapy group.
Lana Lee has a magnificent body and takes care of it. She watches Darlene’s dress rehearsal with the cockatoo and rejects the act because Darlene has made it into a vulgar striptease. She must look pure, like a Southern Belle, as the bird strips her clothes. Jones keeps threatening Lana that he will break open the orphan case and squeal. He knows George has disappeared and is being sought by the police. When Lana is not looking, he discovers the secret cupboard with the packages she gives to George. Also, there is a globe, chalk, and a large book. He pencils in the address of the Night of Joy on each of the plain brown packages to be sold.
Mancuso is taken out of the bathroom at the bus station but is given a two-week probation on the police force. He has to produce a criminal in that time. Ignatius writes in his journal about his adventure in the French Quarter.
He begins with a self-portrait of his “rather invincible being” praising “The grandeur of my physique, the complexity of my worldview with which I function in the mire of today’s world” (p. 265). He compares the French Quarter of New Orleans to places in Soho and North Africa in terms of vice, a “limbo of lost souls” (p. 266), disguised as social failures but perhaps “the saints of our age” (p266) because they are outcasts like he is.
Ignatius is forced to wear a pirate’s costume with a scarf tied around the hunting cap. He describes his journey to Canal Street as a heroic myth. Tourists take his picture; he sells hot dogs; he sees Mancuso also in costume as a tourist. Ignatius demands his Boethius book, and Mancuso is too afraid to tell him it was stolen.
A young co-ed rushes up to Dr. Talc to tell him she loves his history course. He drinks in her adoration. He remembers by contrast Myrna Minkoff who challenged everything he said in class. The student asks for a grade on her report. As Talc looks through his office, she picks up an old note that had been written by Ignatius years ago, accusing him of “misleading and perverting the young” another anonymous note by Zorro (p. 276). She puts it in her purse.
Commentary on Chapter Nine
Ignatius’s fortune has clearly turned for the worst, and he seems determined to take others down with him. Several clues to Ignatius’s character surface in this chapter. He might have been called bi-polar in our day for his alternating manic moods of wild behavior and depression where he stays in his room. One minute he thinks of Mr. Clyde as a surrogate father, and the next, he thinks he is trying to kill him with the hot dog fork. Ignatius finds no father or authority figures he can respect. He tells his mother he wants “a good, strong monarchy with a tasteful and decent king who has some knowledge of theology and geometry and . . . a Rich Inner Life” (pp. 249, 250).
Ignatius is scornful of others, while his mother tries to awaken his sympathy for Negroes, for the police, for mothers. He compares himself to Milton, feeling he is a misunderstood genius. There are many hints that Ignatius has sexual confusion about women and that he has gay tendencies. This is in keeping with the misogynistic feeling of the Middle Ages where women were seen as a hindrance to spiritual and intellectual life. Ignatius is full of self-delusion, thinking he can make money from his writing and lecturing. He tells his story in his journal as though he is a medieval character being tested in the evil world. His writing is a menace when he sends notes and letters. Dr. Talc is getting the full benefit of Ignatius’ scorn because he was too lazy to clean out his office from old ungraded reports and papers. A stray note from “Zorro” could ruin him, as a falsified letter to Levy’s client could ruin him.
Lana Lee is getting set up by Jones for a big bust, as he discovers and tampers with her cabinet of illegal packages. A hint is dropped that Lana has a gorgeous body that she keeps fit. The copy of Boethius has been traveling around from Ignatius to Mancuso to George and finally to Lana Lee, for some mysterious purpose.