Written amid the 1960s, John Kennedy Toole’s human tragicomedy A Confederacy of Dunces may preside among the most quizzical and dumbfounding novels that have ever crossed me. Toole’s story depicts the bumbling tale of bloated and obese Ignatius Reilly, a 30-year old New Orleans native sporting a rich vocabulary, enabling procrastination, and an uncanny ignorance. Living a life of flatulence among the back bedroom of his mother’s home on Constantinople street, Ignatius is stripped of his “luxury” and forced into the work system by his mother for the purpose of repaying a car debt. This sends Ignatius into a fruitless twister of lunatic adventures and disastrous tragedy, as he comes in contact with bar owners, depressed businessmen, enraged wage workers, and slothful protesters Ignatius destroys and obliterates all that stands before him, dissolving company reputations and personal relationships in his ceaseless battle against the modern world.
While the vocabulary of Toole’s novel is often complex and difficult to follow (considering its age), A Confederacy of Dunces maintains an advanced and entrancing story despite its years. The story is a tangled one, that interconnects relationships and experiences, much like that of a romantic comedy, though A Confederacy , in my opinion, is a great deal superior to that. Utilizing a main character that is both antagonist and protagonist, the reader is prone to depressing every individual of the novel, and finds themselves analyzing the “Goodness” of their personalities. It’s a novel that forces one to reflect upon their own character, in the hopes that they don’t resemble that of Ignatius or the remaining “confederacy of dunces.” It is a curious piece of literature, if ever there was a better way to describe it. Toole has masterfully weaved theme and symbolism for the American Dream itself within a both tragic and laughable plot.
A Confederacy of Dunces is certainly a novel for mature and advanced readers. It is for those willing put place into it the effort of analyzing that it truly deserves, rather than merely reading the words on the pages. It is a book that takes effort, but a worthy one for it. One receives far more back than that which they put into the reading of this tale. It is an immensely intellectually profitable book, if ever one could exist.