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Book Club – A Confederacy of Dunces – Meat of the Matter (Part II) January 28, 2011

Posted by Cathy in Entertainment, Literature.

Our Innocent Bystanders Book Club discussion of  A Confederacy of Dunces continues here in Part II, for comments about the remaining chapters of the book.

Help yourself to any/all of these focus questions and share your response:

  1. Ignatius constantly criticizes and deprecates his mother while relying on her to keep his life together. Does she feel the same way about her son?  What does she need from him and what does she get for her pains?
  2. The city of New Orleans plays a central role in the novel, seeming to be a character in and of itself. Could this novel have been set in another American city? Elaborate?
  3. Project Ignatius and Myrna into the future. They are supposed to be in love, but find themselves fighting before ever leaving the city. Will they make it to New York? Can New York survive Ignatius? What possibilities do you see for them?
  4. Ignatius is a virgin, but Myrna declares herself to be sexually uninhibited. Is each telling the truth? Can you see them becoming intimate? Discuss this in light of your own experience or that of a friend’s.
  5. Ignatius thinks of himself as a knight errant seeking to set the modern world in line with his theories of good taste and solid geometry. Are his efforts doomed to failure? Has he chosen his quests unwisely or does the fault lie in his personality? Is the way he views the world askew?
  6. Is Ignatius purely lazy or does his attitude toward work reflect his disdain for the modern world of commerce? Ignatius feels he is an anachronism. Where would he fit in?
  7. Does Ignatius or any other character remind you of someone in real life?  How has your similar real-life ‘character’ helped or impeded your enjoyment of this book?

[Note from Site Administration: At Cathy’s suggestion, Book Club threads are now bookmarked in the sidebar to minimize wear on your scroll wheel.]


1. Car in - January 28, 2011

ok, I need to read a bit more before i can tackle questions (I only -really- started the book yesterday), but I actually LOLed at this:

“They got any cute girls working there?”

Ignatius thought of Miss Trixie and said, “Yes, there is one.”
“She appears to be.”

2. Car in - January 28, 2011

Ha. Next page.

You are aware, of course, that Frued linked paranoia with homosexual tendencies.

“Filth!” Ignatius shouted.

Sorry if my mindthoughts are annoying.

3. Michael - January 28, 2011

At Cathy’s suggestion, Book Club threads are now bookmarked in the sidebar to minimize wear on your scroll wheel.

4. Cathy - January 28, 2011

Thanks, Batman!

5. Sobek - January 28, 2011


Part of the reason is got better is that my expectations got lowered by the preface and the beginning. I got the impression that Ignatius’ job hunts would end in wacky slapstick, which would suck (like getting a foot stuck in the trash can, or getting locked in the bathroom).

So when the first job ended in an abortive communist insurrection, I was impressed. I didn’t know how the job would end, but I wouldn’t have guessed that.

Since slogging through the first chapter, I’ve laughed out loud at several parts. There are little bits of randomness that just work, as individual bits. It doesn’t make the over-arching plot and character arc better, but it’s something. My favorite so far was the paper airplane, written in crayon, that said “I decree that you be hung by your underdeveloped testicles until dead. Zorro.”

6. daveintexas - January 28, 2011

I’m told by USPS.com my book will arrive on Monday.

7. Sobek - January 29, 2011

Finished the book. I liked the end.

8. Car in - January 29, 2011

I’m halfway through it.

9. Michael - January 29, 2011

Yes, Ignatius’ revolution at Levy Pants was a failure, but I am holding on to some hope for his career as a hot dog vendor, despite its inauspicious beginning.

Meaning, I’m actually beginning to get engaged by the book, now that I’m into Chapter 7. It takes awhile to get involved with Ignatius. Officer Mancuso and Jones, and Mrs. Levy to a lesser extent, kinda keep you going until then.

Mrs. Reilly, Ignatius’ mother, I don’t care about at all. I could shoot her dead without a qualm.

Kinda weird that Toole’s mom was the champion for his manuscript, after he committed suicide. In her shoes, I would have burned it.

10. Michael - January 29, 2011

Meaning, it is a fact of the human condition that your dysfunctional attributes. normally, are a reaction to the dysfunctional attributes of your parents, especially  your opposite-sex parent.

The process of becoming an adult involves getting over this. During the adolescent years, we all hate our parents. Eventually, you forgive and understand them, and relate to them as an adult, not a child.

So far, midway through Chapter 7, Toole is still screaming hatred at his mother.

11. Retired Geezer - January 29, 2011

So far, midway through Chapter 7, Toole is still screaming hatred at his mother.

That’s pretty much how I figured it,

12. Car in - January 30, 2011

I’m around chapter 9 or 10 … but I find it kinda interesting that there isn’t ONE healthy relationship between any of these folks. No good marriages. Friendships seem awfully strained. Parent/child or even grandparent to child … they’re all horrible.

It must have sucked to be Toole.

13. Car in - January 30, 2011

But, a lot of the book reads like a screenplay,to me. I can SEE Ignatius saying these things.

The mother isn’t as fleshed-out as Ignatius. Her character rings a little less true to me, which is kinda absurd since everyone is way out there.

But she’s off. He misses something there.

14. Retired Geezer - January 30, 2011

But, a lot of the book reads like a screenplay,to me. I can SEE Ignatius saying these things.

A tribute to his writing ability.

But I don’t wanna see Ignatius.
On the cover, he seems kinda cute and cuddly, with a little grin.
I haven’t seen him grin/smile once in the text.

15. Car in - January 30, 2011

Ba haa haaa [chapter 10 spoiler]

Then you must being a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age,” Ingatius said solemnly. “Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books.”

“You’re fantastic.”

“I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he’s found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman.”

I had a nice giggle fit from that passage.

I also enjoy imagining Ignatius as the comic book guy from the Simpsons.

16. Mitchell - January 30, 2011

I finished the book. Around the mid-point of the story with the mysterious distributions of “packages” I became more interested in the narrative. We finally got beyond the annoyance of Ignatius and into the wider interactions of the other characters introduced previously.

17. Car in - January 31, 2011


18. Russ from Winterset - January 31, 2011

I liked the line earlier in the book when Ignatus was talking about Officer Mancuso:

“In my private apocalypse, he shall be impaled upon his own nightstick.”

19. Mitchell - February 1, 2011

The big problem with this book is that there is no sympathetic character to root for. Everybody is critically damaged in some way and annoying. Not only that but everyone was typically screaming at each other over

I dunno, maybe over-extravagant emoting is much more common in lower-income households than what I know.

Another point of irritation was that these characters were just hard to believe. But then you only have to point to the general New Orleanians behavior during and post-Katrina to demonstrate that no, this is the general character of people who live there – even 40+ years after this was written.

20. pajama momma - February 1, 2011

Ugh, I might miss this one. Too much going on in my life. I’ve been bed ridden with some stomach crud since yesterday. Now 3 out of 4 kids have it.

My brother got shipped to Iraq today. My aunt had a foot of her colon removed today and my grandpa found out today that he has to have his aorta replaced or something like that…….

And I have my first computer cert. test next Wednesday.

Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be able to catch up with you guys on this one. I’ll do the next one.

Sorry to be such a negative nelly….just updating

21. pajama momma - February 1, 2011

I dunno, maybe over-extravagant emoting is much more common in lower-income households than what I know.


22. pajama momma - February 1, 2011

Mitchell, I just realized you are NEVER on your fb account.

23. Dave in Texas - February 1, 2011

PJ, sorry about the illnesses and life stuff. Hope things get better soon sweetie.

24. Car in - February 1, 2011

What I enjoyed about the book was Ignatius’s little lines. He really was over the top, but funny.

I had hoped there would be some sort of resolution, but there really wasn’t. He didn’t grow or change or even face a come to Jesus moment.

25. Car in - February 1, 2011

And, I think Ignatius is just plain lazy. Everything else is merely a cover for that.

He’s even intellectually lazy, because despite his higher education and erudition, in no point of this point does he -in any way – seek any form of knowledge .

26. Retired Geezer - February 1, 2011

I enjoyed the ‘writing’, Toole could turn a phrase with the best of them.

For instance, “The air conditioning unit expelled the stale air, cigarette smoke and ennui.”

Ok, that was from memory cause I’m too lazy to try to find it.

I despise Ignatius. I ain’t a H8r but I would try to stay away from that jerk in real life.

27. Car in - February 1, 2011

Oh, no doubt. Ignatius is my brother, I’m telling you.

And you know how often I willingly spend time with him?

28. Cathy - February 1, 2011

PJ-Momma. You do plenty. Hang in there, girl. You won’t get guilt here… well unless you want it… then we’ll pile it on.

*looks around room*
*who goes first?*

29. Michael - February 1, 2011

Peej, quit yer whinin’ and git yer ass out of bed and make the Gs some PB&J sammiches for dinner. It’s the least you could do, if you don’t want to be a hopelessly bad mother.

30. pajama momma - February 1, 2011

*cuddles up to cathy
*sticks tongue out at michael

31. Mitchell - February 2, 2011

While I have been vocal in my criticism of this book I do have to admit that it was considerably redeemed by the ending. *Spoiler Alert*

Most stories follow the standard story arc where the central character undergoes some sort of transformation dictated by the trial or adventure that makes up the substance of the story. Dunces actually turns that convention on its head a bit since Ignatius doesn’t really transform much from the beginning to the end, but instead he served as a sort of crazy, corkscrew catalyst that transformed the lives of those he encountered. Pretty much all the lives of the characters in this book were screwed up in some form or fashion, and by the end most were un-screwed and the bad-ish people were in jail.

As for Ignatius himself, Myrna was actually correct in her general assessment that he was rotting in that room and I was glad that she was able to liberate him from it. Reflecting back, I regard Ignatius as the faulty Valve that the story had to squeak, burst and belch through to be told.

One odd note that struck me as being “off” was Lana Lee getting arrested for “possession of pornography”. Seriously? On Bourbon Street in New Orleans? That’s kinda like arresting a fish “possession of fins”. Maybe things were different in the 60’s where this was set, but when I passed through in the 90’s there were strip clubs and/or sex shops every 20 feet all up and down Bourbon Street. Hell, more than a few offered live sex shows.

32. Car in - February 2, 2011

She was arrested because they were selling the porno to school kids.

If there is a law against such things.

Also – wasn’t it more than just porno? Wasn’t she “advertising”?

33. Cathy - February 2, 2011

*cuddles up to cathy

Could use that cuddle. It’s in the teens here today.


34. Mitchell - February 2, 2011

Yes, those were additional charges but she got popped just for having the postcard in the first place I think. *Looks it up.*

Ah yes: “I’m Patrolman Mancuso. Undercover agent. You’re under arrest for soliciting and for possession of pornography.” They figured out the other stuff when Jones showed them the rest of the stash.

35. Sobek - February 2, 2011

Mancuso was ready to arrest a man just for being in a bathroom looking “suspicious.” His command of the criminal code is somewhat lacking.

I agree that the story works much better as being about a group of people, rather than about Ignatius.

36. Car in - February 3, 2011

Poor Mancuso. He was stuck in that bathroom until he came up with an arrest.

I may have gotten desperate as well.

37. Car in - February 3, 2011

It’s funny because I think what MOST reminds me of my brother about Ignatius comes from the title/ Swift quote:

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

The idea that Ignatius has, and my brother, that one is so smart, so “right”, that others simply do not understand your brilliance. This conceit results in never being able improve as a person. there is NOTHING wrong with Ignatius, in his mind. He is perfect. The problem lies with everyone else.

I’m sure everyone knows someone like this.

With Ignatius, this explodes to epic proportions.

38. lauraw - February 3, 2011

Just started reading yesterday, got 1/3 way through the book before I had to put it down and realized I was pretty ticked off at this ass.

So there’s something.

I’m glad the author wrote Ignatius as so physically large and imposing. If you’re going to the trouble of writing a novel about the Biggest Cockbite In The World, he should have proportions to match.

39. Car in - February 3, 2011

He’s isn’t fat or smelly or rude, Lauraw. He’s simply surrounded by lesser beings.

40. The toe-tapping, wide-stance guy from an unknown state. - February 3, 2011

Mancuso was ready to arrest a man just for being in a bathroom looking “suspicious.” His command of the criminal code is somewhat lacking.


41. pajama momma - February 3, 2011

You really love your brother don’t you carin?

42. Cathy - February 3, 2011

I’ve not finished the book, but hopefully will carve out time in the next day. I’ll respond to focus questions at that time.

When I first got started I kept thinking “Ewwwww… this guy’s disgusting!” But the more I read the more I’m able to step back a bit — maybe avoiding how I imagine he smells — and to see a bigger picture.

A couple of days ago I caught myself laughing out loud a bunch while reading. Was probably annoying the hell out of Batman in the next room, but too bad. Glad I’m putting up with it and will finish. Gaining a new appreciation for it. Putting some puzzle pieces together. Enjoying some anticipation. What a bunch of goof-balls!!! But tells a more realistic about our world than maybe I wanna admit, I think.

I just want to ENCOURAGE those who are, like me, not finished, to ENDURE the humps and FINISH!!!

Those who have finished, please hang in there. I’ll put up the third and final post soon. It’s ready to go, but could benefit from additional questions ANY of you might want added. Thanks.

43. Lauraw's hump - February 3, 2011

ENDURE the humps and FINISH!!!

Watch it, Sister.

44. lauraw - February 4, 2011

Finished the other 2/3 of the book last night.

That last bit there was kind of nice- literally the last paragraph where he finally experiences what it’s like to have a shred of gratitude and in a unique moment of self-reflection, recognizes it.

I saw what parts of the book were intended to be funny, but found myself too resentful of this useless prick to really enjoy them. I guess you could call that excellent character development on the part of the author, but it does make for tedious reading when all you really want is the next page to be about his suicide and it never happens.

The part where Toole conducts a review of all the other characters’ lives in quick succession took me out of the book. Instead of feeling immersed in a novel I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, the writer is wrapping up characters now.”

45. Car in - February 4, 2011

You really love your brother don’t you carin?

I’ve tried to, Peej.

46. Car in - February 4, 2011

He doesn’t make it easy.

47. Michael - February 4, 2011

I have to confess, I skimmed through every part where Ignatius was writing in his journal. Just plucked out whatever was in that microscopic type that might advance the plot.

48. lauraw - February 4, 2011

Carin at #24:
He didn’t grow or change or even face a come to Jesus moment.

I disagree. I think it came right at the end of the book. Read the last paragraph. What is the irony he refers to?
Don’t you think that very last act of his was completely out of character?

49. lauraw - February 4, 2011

Is it over?


OK. Nobody wants to talk about this anymore. Fine.

Hmmm. I feel a bout of seasonal poetry coming on.

Michael - February 4, 2011

Relax. Cathy is going to put up a final wrap-up post on the book.

Where we all get to vent our rage at Ignatius.

50. Cathy - February 5, 2011

Laura. I am gonna talk about it HERE… and in the final wrap-up. Don’t leave me. Please.

*pours Laura drinks and waits for seasonal poetry*

I’ve been reading all the fine print that represents Ignatius’ journal writings and see a difference in the way he writes versus the way he speaks to others.

*ponders significance*

51. Cathy - February 5, 2011

You really love your brother don’t you carin?
I’ve tried to, Peej.

Got my share of love2brother issues…

52. lauraw - February 5, 2011

*pours Laura drinks and waits for seasonal poetry*

HAY. Hold yer horses lady, I’m still at work and it’s not even noon yet!

Will probably be poetic this evening though. Jenny is taking me for soul food and coupla beers this afternoon.

I’m terribly excited.

53. Cathy - February 5, 2011

*pours Laura drinks and waits for seasonal poetry*
HAY. Hold yer horses lady, I’m still at work and it’s not even noon yet!

Third poat up, Sweetie.

*pours liquor back in bottle*

54. helenq - August 29, 2013

This is a truly wonderful book. One of my top 5 for sure. If anyone reading this hasn’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and read it next!

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