A Confederacy of Dunces

Comprehension Through the Smoke, Awareness Beyond the Glasses in A Confederacy of Dunces

In his novel A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole casts Burma Jones in a stereotypical role in society. By hiding Jones’ face behind space-age sunglasses and a cloud of smoke, Toole maintains Jones’ ambiguity while gradually diverging from his stereotype. During Jones’ employment at the Night of Joy bar, he knows his limitations regarding Lana Lee and his own duties. Jones becomes familiar with his surroundings to the point that he not only recognizes his own exploitation, but also the many other atrocities committed by Lana Lee. When Jones exposes Lana Lee at the end of the novel, he breaks his stereotype altogether. Throughout A Confederacy of Dunces, Jones remains fully aware of his circumstances and uses his stereotype to effectively manipulate his situation.

From the moment Toole introduces Jones at the police station, he makes routine references to Jones’ glasses and the cloud of smoke that seems to surround him in order to subtly deemphasize Jones’ identity. Along with keeping Jones relatively anonymous, Toole uses the smoke and sunglasses as metaphors to symbolize the stereotype in which society casts Jones. When Lana Lee physically attempts to see Jones through his dark glasses, she also attempts to see Jones...

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