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A Confederacy of Dunces

 

by John Kennedy Toole
 
John Kennedy Toole's lunatic novel introduces one of the
most memorable characters in American literature, Ignatius
Reilly who is in revolt against the entire modern age. A
morbidly obese 30 year old with an MA in Medieval Studies,
Ignatius is unemployed and lives with his widowed mother,
whom he treats abominably. He spends his days watching junk
TV, going to movies, obsessing about his overtaxed
digestive system, and writing florid denunciations of
modern culture. A drunk-driving charge and fine which has
to be paid, forces Ignatius to find a job. Protesting
loudly al the while, he does manage to work of sorts; as a
file clerk at Levy Pants and a hot-dog vendor in the French
Quarter. He also encounters an increasingly bizarre chain
of events that blunder to a surprisingly just conclusion.
 
The author, even though he was young when he wrote this
book, was brilliant in his observations of human nature and
the different quirky characteristics a personality could
possess. All the characters around Ignatius J. Reilly, the
main character of the book, were portrayed as dunces, an
alliance of morons and dimwits. Ignatius thought "I am
apparently trapped in a limbo of lost souls." (Page 238)
All of Toole's characters seem to be misfits of one sort or
another. All had problems in their lives, problems from
within their own personality or forced upon them by society
or their station in life. 

All the while Ignatius thought of himself as the opposite
of a dunce: a genius, a scholar, a wise man. This kind of
thought lead him to think of himself as having no peers, no
equals "for I mingle with my peers or no one-and since I
have no peers, I mingle with no one," (page 134) 

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a masterpiece of human
folly and tragedy. 
 



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