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A Dose of Reality:

How do the various social problems that are presented in A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy
Toole affect the characterization of Ignatius?

Nihar Khare
Mrs. Volzer; MYP 5 English, Period 6
April 11, 2014

I. Abstract: (170)

John Kennedy Tooles A Confederacy of Dunces progressively shows the various social problems in
New Orleans and how they affect the citizens of the city, which leads to the development of Ignatius
-who is the main character - and his characteristics. Due to the the various social groups and issues of
New Orleans, Ignatius character continuously builds up throughout the novel. Since the my essay will
be discussing the effects of the various social issues, I will be writing in an order of degree format. First,
I will discuss the government and its effect on Ignatius while he was actively pushing for reform. Then, I
will discuss the role of racial repression on his mindset and how he views various social problems.
Lastly, I will discuss the issues he encounters in his workplaces and how he begins to see people in a
different and more intelligent manner. The only source that is required in this essay is the book, since the
essay I am writing solely deals with Ignatius characterization.

II. Table of Contents

I. Abstract 1
II. Table of Contents 2
III. Section One 3
IV. Section Two ?
V. Section Three ?
VI. Conclusion ?
VII. Reference page ?

III. Section One (315)

Ignatius characterization in A Confederacy of Dunces is largely affected by the social issues that deal
with slavery and repression. One of the main problems that is presented concerns the unfair laws in the
Night of Joy, which is a local nightclub, and how Burma Jones, an African American porter, is treated.
In the middle section of the book, Jones is talking to Lana, the owner of the Night of Joy, about a bird
that might perform on stage as part of an entertainment show and when she denies the bird access in the
club, Jones says that Lana [should] give it a chance, [you cant] treat it like its color people (Toole,
1980, p. 170). Jones is trying to say that the unfair treatment that is acted upon him is not a way to treat
any living creature; no one deserves to be treated in that manner. He is implying to Lana that the
treatment he is receiving is nowhere near what is acceptable in a just world. Jones goes on to support
the bird and even though he has never seen a worse performance and he claims that Darlene and the
bird qualified as legitimate sabotage (Toole, 1980, p. 170). Ignatius is affected by this attitude, since he
has visited the Night of Joy many times and seems to get along with Jones well. Another problem with
the racism in the story is how everyone else looks down at the African Americans. Lana frequently calls
Jones a jailbait vagrant or stupid or other derogatory words. This shows that even though racism is
abolished, the people of New Orleans still look down on the African Americans. Ignatius views this
racism too and later on he decides that the African Americans can actually be decent people.

IV. Section Two (361)
A second issue mentioned is the inefficient and unfair government. In many times throughout the
book, the corruption in the overall government is portrayed as an institution that inflicts extremely
negative effects on its people. For example, in the beginning of the book Ignatius almost gets arrested by
a police officer and he says that the city is run over by gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, Antichrists,

alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, jitterbugs, and
lesbians, all of whom are only too well protected by graft. (Toole, 1980, p. 3) and then tells the officer
that if he has time he can talk to Ignatius about the crime problem, but he should not bother Ignatius of
all people about this matter . This simply demonstrates the hardships that Ignatius has to face when in
New Orleans and it also shows how Ignatius thought process works. Most of the characters listed are
also people that Ignatius later meets and they are people who influence him to become who he is.
Another problem is the officiality of the police force, or rather the lack thereof. Patrolman Mancuso, the
same police officer who wanted to arrest Ignatius, is shown to be undercover, but not very
professionally. He is described to be hiding in a public bathroom waiting for something illegal to happen,
without any official assignment that he should be working on. Mancuso is also laughed at when he
reports to the main branch with his accomplishments, instead of awarded or honored. This issue affects
Ignatius because Mancuso reappears into Ignatius life and he keeps a watch on Ignatius daily routine.
The party speech and political beliefs of Ignatius also affect the readers view of him as a whole. During
his party speech he claims that The world today is in a state of grave unrest. and that they must
prevent the apocalypse (Toole, 1980, p. 321). This shows that Ignatius himself has very strong beliefs
about the state of the world and he wants to change a lot of it. He is portrayed as a leader and as a
revolutionary who can really make an impact on modern society.

V. Section Three (250)

The issues in the workforce that are presented in A Confederacy of Dunces are some of the most
prevalent things that help the readers understand Ignatius further. An issue that is reoccurring throughout

the novel is Trixie and her work ethics. Trixie is shown as a lazy, misunderstood woman who does not
know what to do of her job. She even seems to be struggling with peoples names as she calls Ignatius
by the name of Gloria throughout the entire book. She seems like a total mess and Ignatius tries many
things to try to get her to be more involved with her work. This shows Ignatius belief in a better
workforce and its surroundings. Another issue in Levy Pants is the fact that most of the workers are
hired without credentials. A few months after Ignatius leaves Levy Pants, another man is hired to take
the place of Ignatius and the job that he works at. This man is said to be a gangster and to look like a
hoodlum (Toole, 1980, p. 273). This simply exemplifies the problems in the workforce that Ignatius
was trying to prevent with the uprising of the workers at Levy Pants. Since many of the workers at Levy
Pants have bad ethics and work force regulations, he decides that he has to rise up against the company
and revolt against all that is happening. This plan fails, as many of the people that are working there have
no clue to what is happening.

VI. Conclusion (162)

All in all, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is an excellent representation of social
issues and how they affect a single character throughout his life. Ignatius is completely swallowed by the
various social groups and problems that occur in his life and his characterization to the readers is
presented in this way. Up to this point in his life, he has been living in his own bubble and due to these
unforeseen circumstances, that bubble is popped. His common struggles with each part of his life seem
to develop his character as he meets new people and goes to many different places. Throughout the
novel, Ignatius has a tendency of picking up a lot of information in a small amount of time, so he retains a

lot of what is occurring around him. He also thinks that he has control of his life, but in reality his entire
life seems to randomly move as it continues to the end.

VII. Reference Page
Toole, J. K. (1980). A confederacy of dunces. New York, NY: Grove Press.