The reason I came across this book was because my favourite film director John Waters wanted to create an adaptation of the novel in the 80s. That about tells you what the novel may be about. A Confederacy of Dunces is a vulgar novel about a 30 something man-child and his quest to get a job in New Orleans in the 60s. The title itself has two meanings: the first that the book features grotesque characters who are frankly, dunces; secondly, it also rephrases the paranoia of the main character’s fear of the world of idiots conspiring against him. The novel played out like a really bad Family Guy episode, so you know how bad it really is.
The plot of the novel is best summarized in character analysis, which is what I shall do:
- Ignatius J. Reilly (a.k.a. Peter Griffin and Brian Griffin)- The protagonist and anti-villain of the novel (I simply cannot say he’s an anti-hero). A 30 something man-child with a foul sense of manner and even worse hygiene and attitude. He’s one of the most obnoxious characters I’ve ever read, complete with delusion of grandeur, sociopathy and total lack of social skills. He lived at his home with his aging mother Mrs. Irene Rielly who doted on him, he spent his day watching and criticizing TV and being unbearable generally, especially with his bad musical skills driving his neighbour Miss Annie almost insane. His favourite pasttime activity was going to the cinema to criticize the pictures loudly. One drunk accident of Mrs. Rielly forced Ignatius to get a job. He worked as a paper filer for a pants making company briefly and attempted to unionize the workforce but it backfired on him so he was fired; Then worked briefly as a hotdog vendor in which he ate all the hotdogs himself. One wrong doing after another, he ended up getting Mrs. Rielly wanting to commit him to the mental hospital, who realised he’s completely insane. I’ve never read any book featuring any character I wanted to suffer a painful, gruesome death the most. Ignatius is basically a parody of product of baby boomers, somewhat a Don Quixote too as he believes he’s some medieval knight trapped in the modern, “degenerate” world. He showed that being book smart doesn’t equal to one being a good person nor being intelligent.
- Myrna Minkoff (a.k.a. Meg Griffin)- Ignatius’ “girlfriend”, she’s a rich Jewish heiress from New York Ignatius had the (mis)fortune of acquainting during his college years (he spent 8 years in college to get an unknown Master’s degree). She is the extreme opposite of Ignatius, which made her, very similar to Ignatius. She is vulgar and hypersexual who has a love-hate relationship with Ignatius, most of her appearances in the novel were of correspondence with Ignatius in the form of mail. She is obsessed with sex (a thing Ignatius disdains but secretly enjoys) and breaking the boundaries, she ridiculed Ignatius throughout the novel and insinuating that Ignatius may be gay as he believed that if homosexuals could infiltrate the militaries of the world, the army would be too busy having sex with each other to actually fight, thus bringing world peace. She is a avant garde parody of the SJWs today.
- Mrs. Rielly (a.k.a. Lois Griffin)- Initially abused by Ignatius, but eventually grew a backbone with the help of her new best friend Santa Battaglia (who hates Ignatius), she eventually got into a relationship with Claude Robichaux, a rich elderly man who she falsely helped to get arrested in the beginning of the novel, he believes everyone is a communist. Mrs. Rielly was also convinced that Ignatius is a communist (which offended Ignatius as he was a Monarchist). Mrs. Rielly is also an alcoholic, but seeing how Ignatius treated her, she really needed alcohol to cope.
- Angelo Mancuso (a.k.a. Stewie Griffin)- A kind hearted but incompetent police officer assigned by the force to catch “suspicious” characters, he was forced to wear ridiculous disguises (e.g. Santa Costume, dressing up as a French guy, etc) and getting stuck inside a gas station toilet. He is the most obvious joke of the novel, but one of the few likeable characters with an ounce of redeeming quality.
- Burma Jones (a.k.a. Cleveland Brown)- A vagrant forced to work for pornstar/bar owner Lana Lee under a “contract”, another one of the few likeable characters but suffering from stereotypes of being a minority insert. He spent his days scheming to get Lana into trouble so he can finally leave his “plantation job”. He succeeded when he managed to get Lana to sell her nude photos to Mancuso and was deemed as a helpful bystander, thus he could continue to be a vagabond (how is this a good ending for him?).
- Miss Trixie (a.k.a. John Herbert)- A senile accountant working at Levy Pants who should be retired a long time ago, but was kept from doing so by Mrs. Levy who wanted to “study” her and make her husband miserable. One of the few people Ignatius was nice to, took all the blames for Ignatius’ wrongdoings.
- Mr. Gonzalez (a.k.a. Adam West)-An incompetent office manager at Levy Pants who was completely oblivious to how incompetent Ignatius was and hated by Ignatius.
- Mr and Mrs. Levy (a.k.a. Carter and Barbara Pewterschmidt)- Briefly employed Ignatius at their pants making company, Mrs. Levy is very into psychoanalysing people, also somewhat a Lilian Rearden who enjoys making her husband’s life miserable so that she could use psychoanalysis to explain his misery. Mr. Levy on the other hand hated having to ownership of Levy Pants simply because it was a family business, he initially was one of the victims of Ignatius’ lying sociopathy but ended up gaining the upper hand of his marriage and revamped his business into making shorts.
- Dorian Greene (a.k.a. Bruce)- A flamboyant rich gay man who thinks Ignatius is some fascinating animal, coerced by Ignatius into forming a political party to bring homosexuals in the military. His richness came from his three lesbian tenants at the apartment building who enjoyed wrestling and beating people up, thus keeping the building free from burglars.
I believe the writing was actually rather good, the dialogues were writing in the Louisianan accent. My biggest problem (which led me to elaborate in a book review) was the overall pessimism of the book. The book was entertaining but very bleak. We were made to believe that life is suffering and suffering is funny? How anyone who could find this mess funny was still a mystery to me, they must have a really bleak outlook of life. We are not meant to find laziness, dishonesty, injustice funny. These are all wrong, if they were made fun of and an ending which served justice was included then this could have been a better book, but instead, I would like to call this a “repulsive realism”. This is how you should not write a book, the book would have gone to obscurity if not for the writer’s suicide, it saddens me that you win prizes for killing yourself, which is what Heathers have warned. There was not a single positive thing happening during the novel, not a single one, all I got was me seething in rage hoping that Ignatius would meet a deserved end to his miserable life.