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A Confederacy of Dunces (3)

Part of the genius of the novel is its plotting. Only with repeated readings do you realize how Kennedy Toole sets things up that will be resolved hundreds of pages later.

When Ignatius works at Levy Pants, he first seems to Mr. Levy to be a good employee, for Mr. Levy wants nothing so much as to ignore his business, and is unaware of Ignatius's firing off offensive missives to clients, emptying the files into the garbage, and inciting revolt in the factory. At one point, however, Ignatius tells Mr. Levy, "I will change your mind about this firm, sir. Mark my word." We just read on, assuming that Ignatius's stay at Levy at Levy pants will be nothing but a disaster. But as it turns out, at the end of the novel, Mr. Levy does decide to engage himself once again with his business.

Speaking of the Levys, here's the description of their house:

"A permanently 75-degree womb connected to the year-round air-conditioning that silently filled the rooms with filtered and reconstituted Gulf of Mexico breezes and exhaled the Levys' carbon dioxide and cigarette smoke and ennui."

The brilliance of the sentence is rhetorical: carbon dioxide (concrete), cigarette smoke (concrete) and ennui (abstract). I love this.


The workers in the factory at Levy Pants are all black. Ignatius lives on society's margin, as do African Americans, which leads Ignatius to ponder:

"Perhaps I should have been a negro. I suspect that I would have been a rather large and terrifying one, continually pressing my ample thigh against the withered thighs of old white ladies, in public conveyances and eliciting more than one shriek of panic."



January 2019



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