A Confederacy of Dunces

Powerful Essays
"Oh, Fortuna, blind, heedless goddess, I am strapped to your wheel. Do not crush me beneath your spokes. Raise me on high, divinity" (Toole: 42). Here, Ignatius Reilly makes one of his many pleas to Fortuna, the goddess which he believes controls his destiny and his life by spinning him in circles of good and bad luck. The cycles Ignatius Reilly goes through in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces play an important role in the story, as they affect not only him, but several others in the book as well. The cycles that Ignatius is put through do, indeed, influence those around him. These cycles that Ignatius goes through are very much like gears, connected to the cycles of the other characters in the novel. Although it is not obvious at first, one can see that as Ignatius' cycle, or gear, is spun downwards by Fortuna, the cycles of those around him who, at first, experience bad luck, are eventually spun upwards. This can be seen by examining the effects of Ignatius Reilly's cycles on situations occurring in the Night of Joy, Levy Pants, and with his mother and her acquaintances.

The situation at the Night of Joy bar is, certainly, an interesting case to examine. At first, both Burma Jones and Darlene are experiencing bad luck, or a downward cycle. However, as Fortuna spins Ignatius Reilly downward, their situation begins to improve. We are introduced to Jones in the police station, early in the novel, after being arrested for, supposedly, stealing a bag of cashews. He exclaims, "I standin aroun in Woolsworth and some cat steal a bag of cashew nuts out the 'Nut House' star screaming like she been stab. Hey! The nex thing, a flo'walk grabbin me, and then a po-lice mother draggin me off. A man ain got a chance. Whoa!" (To...

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... in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces function much like gears. Ignatius Reilly's is the main gear in the machine and the other characters occupy the role of secondary gears. As Fortuna spins Ignatius' fortune downwards, the fortune's of the other characters, which are, at first, unlucky, are then spun upwards. This irony makes the work all the more "grotesque" and appealing to the contemporary reader. It is, truly, a modern classic - the working machine of A Confederacy of Dunces.

Works Cited and Consulted

Clark, William Bedford. "All Toole's Children: A Reading of A Confederacy of Dunces." Essays in Literature 14.2 (1987): 269-280.

McNeil, David. "A Confederacy of Dunces as Reverse Satire: The American Subgenre."

Mississippi Quarterly 38.1 (1984-1985): 33-47.

Toole, John Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces. Grove Weidenfeld: New York, 1980.
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