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Confederacy of Dunces Essays: Last Encounter

A Confederacy of Dunces – Last Encounter

In his last encounter in the novel, Ignatius returns to the ill-reputed Night of Joy. He is still employed by Paradise Vendors and wears the ridiculous costume of a pirate that is mistaken for a Mardi Gras costume. Ignatius attends Dorian Greene’s strange party and the distance between the “bodily” dunce and “intellectual” genius is extended. He tries to speak at the party but no one will listen and he cannot handle being rejected for his ideas so he leaves. Throughout the rest of the novel, Ignatius exhibits characteristics of a dunce according to the rest of the characters. At the point when Ignatius disrupts Darlene’s Harlett O’ Hara act, he follows a series of unfortunate events. The bird attacks him for his novelty earring and Ignatius runs around like a “big crazyman”(285). He bounces out of the bar and runs out into the street, only to come face to face with the headlights of the Desire bus. As Ignatius faints from shock, he shows the reader how awkward and clumsy he is. He has the chance to avoid everything that happens but his dunce tendencies take control. He is ridiculed by everyone at the scene for his possession of Lana Lee’s naked pictures and ends up being the comedian and clown for the hour. Ignatius looks like a “dead cow lying in the street” according to the newspaper photograph and the reader sees the reactions to the incident from every character(289). Mr. Clyde sees Ignatius as “a big ape” and only wishes that he can retrieve his costume from him(293). Dr. Talc needs to find Ignatius to clear his name but decides against it when he sees the paper. He realizes that Ignatius is the dunce but that he also has a way of turning things around which may be detrimental to Dr. Talc. Miss Annie reads the paper and vows to run Ignatius and Irene out of the neighborhood. She is only worried about the reputation of the neighborhood. Patrolman Mancuso is grateful for his luck in stopping the chain of pornography sales along with the incarceration of the three brute women who had attacked him once before. Santa Battaglia talks to the picture of her mother and comments on how awful Irene must be feeling and has no remorse for Ignatius. Claude is only worried that he will not be able to handle such a disgrace as a stepson.

Disparity Between Dunce and Genius in Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

Disparity Between Dunce and Genius in Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” -Jonathan Swift In Swift’s words, there is a potential for the existence of a genius, indicated by the group of dunces acting in opposition. In A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, Ignatius J. Reilly plays both parts of the genius and the dunce. As Ignatius plays both parts, the Wheel of Fortuna determines the path of events in his life; although he is not aware of it, Fortuna’s spin is also determined by his actions. Just as the wheel is circular, so are the events in his life. Ignatius moves through his own bildingsroman, showing qualities of a genius in his words and qualities of a dunce in his actions at the Night of Joy, Levy Pants, Paradise Vendors, and (to complete the circle) again at the Night of Joy.

At the opening of the novel, Ignatius and his mother escape the clutches of the police by entering a nearby bar, the Night of Joy. Ignatius and his mother meet Darlene and the bartender in the sudden visit. As he speaks to Darlene, Ignatius’ stories are unimportant but he tells them in an elevated fashion. Although the content may be trivial, Ignatius uses words that make the stories sound significant. For example, in his story about vomiting on his trip in a Greyhound Scenicruiser, he says, “that was the only time I had ever been out of New Orleans in my life. I think that perhaps it was the lack of a center of orientation that might have upset me”(10). Ignatius continues to speak in an educated style to the bartender, even though his message is condescending. Ignatius tells him that, “it is your duty to sile…

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… he is labeled a “dunce.” He does finally break free from the circles of Fortuna when he runs away to New York with Myrna Minkoff, but his “freedom” is only circumscribed by a new location. The reader is left to believe that Ignatius will create more circles and spins in New York. In Confederacy of Dunces, Toole emphasizes the disparity between the “bodily” dunce and the “intellectual” genius to underscore the impossibility of separating the mental and physical capacities of his characters.

Works Cited and Consulted

Clark, William Bedford. “All Toole’s Children: A Reading of A Confederacy of Dunces.” Essays in Literature 14.2 (1987): 269-280.

McNeil, David. “A Confederacy of Dunces as Reverse Satire: The American Subgenre.”

Mississippi Quarterly 38.1 (1984-1985): 33-47.

Toole, John Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces. Grove Weidenfeld: New York, 1980.

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