A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces Summary and Analysis of Chapter 13

The Hospital

When Ignatius awakes, he is staring at a white ceiling and realizes that he is in a hospital. His head is bandaged, and his mother is sitting beside his bed. Mrs. Reilly feels humiliated and disgraced and, throwing a newspaper at her son, she reveals the source of her embarrassment. Beneath the headline "Wild Incident on Bourbon Street" are three photographs. The first shows Darlene in her ball gown, holding her cockatoo and smiling. In the second, Lana Lee covers her face as Officer Mancuso places her into the back of a squad car with the three members of the ladies' auxiliary (his hat rim is bent, and his suit is torn). The center picture displays Jones, grinning at what appears to be a dead cow lying in the street, but what is actually an unconscious Ignatius wearing his white Paradise Vendors smock. The newspaper story reveals that after a bird had attacked a hot dog vendor wearing a costume, Officer Mancuso had arrested Lana for soliciting and for possession of and posing for pornography. Jones had then led Mancuso to the cabinet under the bar, where more pornography was found. Mancuso told reporters that he had been working on the case for quite a while and had already located one of Lana's agents. While arresting Lana, Mancuso had been assaulted by Frieda, Betty, and Liz, all of whom were also taken into police custody. The story concluded that with the note that I. Reilly had been taken to the hospital to be treated for shock.

Mrs. Reilly reveals to Ignatius that after he had left for Dorian's rally dressed as a pirate, she had called Santa and asked her to send Patrolman Mancuso to follow him. She was convinced that he was going to meet with communists. She also tells Ignatius that the doctors have said there is nothing wrong with him (they even took X-rays) and that Claude would be coming down to pay the hospital bill so that they can go home. Outraged, Ignatius says he will not leave the hospital until "honest money" buys his freedom. But Ignatius cannnot win this battle, since Mrs. Reilly is full of determination and intense anger.

The Paradise Vendors' Reputation

Mr. Clyde cannot believe that Reilly would be wearing his outfit while off duty. An ape like Ignatius could demolish the ten years he had spent trying to build up a decent name for his hot dog vending business. Hot dog vendors were already viewed as bums, and he did not need a vendor passing out on the street. Recognizing that there was probably no chance of getting the uniform or pirate costume back from Ignatius, he decides he at least should contact him to tell him not to come back. When he rings the Reilly residence and gets no answer, he assumes that Ignatius's mother must be dead drunk on the floor somewhere.

Dr. Talc

Dr. Talc has had a terrible week. Somehow, one of Ignatius's threatening letters was disseminated to the student body. Rumors began to spread, and he became the butt of campus jokes. The accusations of "misleading and perverting the young" were badly misinterpreted, and he would have to find a way to explain the charge to the administration. Nor was he thrilled with the reference to his "underdeveloped testicles." Talc concluded that he would just have to find Ignatius Reilly and produce him to the school, live and in the flesh. That way, they would see what a freak he truly is, and they would understand that the note was just a fantasy produced by a sick mind. This plan, however, was turned on its head as soon as Talc took a glance at the morning paper. There he saw the picture of Ignatius, unconscious and in his hot dog vending uniform. He could not understand how Reilly could sink so low. He could imagine Ignatius deliberately bringing his hot dog cart to the school and turning the affair into a circus, with Talc as the clown. Talc would just have to learn to live with the rumors.

Mancuso's Big Day

Patrolman Mancuso is finally receiving the respect that he has sought for so long. The Sergeant commends him for singlehandedly breaking up the city's most active high school pornography racket, including Lana Lee, who had fooled all of the undercover agents. The Sergeant suggests that this might mean a promotion, which gets Mancuso all choked up.

George's Arrest

Seeing the newspaper, George is concerned that his name may be on the list which was found along with the pornography in the cabinet under the bar, so he decides that it might be prudent to stay at home for a while. He hears his mother turn off the vacuum cleaner and answer the doorbell, and then he hears her ask, "The police?"

Lana and the Ladies

At the prison, Lana Lee has been locked in a cell with Betty, Frieda, and Liz. Lee screams to the guards to get her out. Frieda then asks Lana to show them one of the pictures she has hidden in her bra; Liz and Betty agree, noting that they are getting bored looking at "these frigging walls." The three members of the ladies' auxiliary lunge at Lana.

Darlene's Offer

Glad to have gotten some publicity, Darlene is nonetheless feeling downtrodden without employment. Looking at the gold hoop earring that her cockatoo brought home, she realizes that Lana had been right all along; "That big crazy man was really the kiss of death." Just then, Darlene gets a phone call from a man noting her great publicity--and saying that he owns a club on Bourbon Street...


Jones was successful in his sabotage, but it led to his unemployment and new worries of vagrancy charges. Feeling sorry for himself, Jones also feels guilty that poor Darlene has been left jobless. He realizes that the "fat freak" really is like a nuclear bomb--you drop him on someone as sabotage, and plenty of innocent people get screwed too. At least he recognizes that things could be worse--he could be that "fat mother."

Levy Shorts

Mr. and Mrs. Levy had traveled in their sports car to Mandeville to pay a visit to Ignatius Reilly in the state mental hospital (and they had even brought a box of Dutch cookies). When they arrived, they learned that they had been fooled by Ignatius, and they received rude treatment. Mrs. Levy took the whole thing very calmly. Mr. Levy realizes that she is now hoping that he will not find the young idealist, and that he loses the libel suit, so that she can again lead the girls against their father and maintain her position of dominance over Mr. Levy.

Returning to Levy's Lodge and opening the newspaper, Mr. Levy finds what he thinks is the solution to his legal woes: Ignatius, passed out in the street in front of the Night of Joy, including Ignatius's address. As he goes off to speak with Mr. Reilly, Mrs. Levy asks him to drop her off at Miss Trixie's apartment. She has been worrying about the old woman after hearing from Gonzalez that she had bitten the hand of the new filing clerk.

When Mr. Levy arrives at the Reilly residence, Ignatius and his mother have not yet returned from the hospital. While he waits for them, he learns from Miss Annie, the nosy neighbor, that Ignatius had actually been a very good boy as a child. It was only after his pet collie, Rex, passed away, that he started to deteriorate. The Reillys pull up in the Plymouth, and Mr. Levy overhears them arguing about Mrs. Reilly's affair with Claude. Mr. Levy produces the letter to Abelman and asks Ignatius if he is the true author. Ignatius denies any responsibility, but Mrs. Reilly, without even looking at the piece of mail, says "Ignatius done it...Whatever went wrong, Ignatius done it." She asks to see the letter, and when Ignatius tells Mr. Levy not show it to her, she hits him in the side of her head with her purse. At this point, Mr. Levy starts feeling pity for Ignatius, with the drunk mother running around with some old man and wanting her son out of the way. He speculates that Ignatius's childhood pet was probably the only thing he ever really had in his life. Taking Mr. Levy to his room, Ignatius shows him entries from his "Journal of a Working Boy," in which he had noted his devotion to the firm and had vowed to lead Mr. Levy to once again believe in Levy Pants. Ignatius then lays the blame for the letter on Miss Trixie, claiming that her apathy was truly a façade for her resentment of Levy Pants and its refusal to retire her. Mr. Levy considers the evidence. Gonzalez had told him that Mr. Reilly had always seemed interested in and devoted to the firm, and the journal entries seemed to confirm this. And Miss Trixie had never hidden her hate for Levy Pants. Mr. Levy supposes that she may, in fact, be the true culprit behind the letter.

Mr. Levy returns to Miss Trixie's apartment and confronts Miss Trixie, telling her of Mr. Reilly's accusation and asking whether she wrote the letter. When Miss Trixie asks who Mr. Reilly is, Mr. Levy describes him as the big man with the green cap who used to work at Levy Pants. Miss Trixie thinks to herself that they must be referring to her old friend Gloria. Gloria Reilly, she thinks, was always such a good friend to her and would never lie. Plus there were plenty of things that she had probably done and could no longer remember. She replies that, yes, she wrote the letter to Mr. Abelman. Hearing this enrages Mrs. Levy, who cannot believe that after all she has done for Miss Trixie, she would turn around and do something like this. She yells, "You can kiss Levy Pants goodbye...You'll get discarded!" This is music to Miss Trixie's ears; she is finally getting her retirement. Gloria Reilly truly was a good friend to her.

The tables have turned, and Mr. Levy finally has leverage over his wife. If Mrs. Levy had not insisted on her "project," Miss Trixie would have been retired long ago and never would have had motivation to write this letter. Threatening to write Susan and Sandra to tell them about their mother's mistake, he instructs Mrs. Levy that she will make arrangements to have a doctor declare Miss Trixie senile and incompetent and to have him explain the motivations for her writing the letter. He then sends her to the store to get Miss Trixie the Easter ham she has been waiting for.

Mr. Levy also decides that he is going to take a more active role at Levy Pants. He changes the name to Levy Shorts and plans on producing Bermuda shorts instead of pants from now on. He reasons that they will be less trouble and that they can make more profit on lower expenditures. He also decides to move forward with the Levy Foundation, and for the recipient of its first award, he chooses the young, black man--Jones--pictured in the newspaper with Reilly. In conjunction with the award, he plans on offering Jones a job.

Mr. Levy's mind drifts toward the Abelman letter, and then he recalls some things he overheard Ignatius say in the yard. He had referred to "Mongoloid Mancuso" and stated that someone needed to be "lashed." It was Reilly who had written the letter to Ableman after all! Mr. Levy realizes that in his own "kook way," Ignatius had saved himself, Miss Trixie, and Mr. Levy.


This chapter is presenting poetic justice: things turn out well for those characters who have been portrayed as generally good people (Jones, Darlene, Mr. Levy, Miss Trixie, and Patrolman Mancuso), while the immoral characters (Lana Lee, Liz, Betty, Frieda, and Mrs. Levy) ultimately get the punishments that they deserve. More importantly, however, Jones in the last chapter and Ignatius in this one are the primary means through which poetic justice is distributed.

Early in the book, we learned that Ignatius did not believe that he had control over the course of his life. Whether he met with good or (more often) bad fortune, Ignatius took no credit or responsibility for the direction of his life. Rather, according to Ignatius, the blind goddess Fortuna was directing his life's path. Perhaps out of feeling depressed, he decided that Fortuna decides his fate. Now, Ignatius plays the role of Fortuna for the other characters, delivering luck.

Officer Mancuso's ineptitude almost got him kicked off the police force he loved so dearly, but he remained dedicated to his job and worked hard to apprehend a suspicious character. In the end, he finally gets the respect, recognition, and possible promotion he has been dreaming of, with the catalyst being Ignatius, who leads him to the Night of Joy bar and Lana Lee's pornography operation. Darlene and Jones, who have long been subjected to the oppressive rule of Lana Lee, are freed from the bonds of employment when Ignatius catalyzes the downfall of the Night of Joy and its proprietress. Moreover, the publicity leads to improved job prospects for both Darlene and Jones. And at the end of the novel, the letter that Ignatius had sent to Mr. Abelman allows Mr. Levy to escape the domination of his overbearing wife and helps Miss Trixie get her long-awaited retirement.

Similarly, it is Ignatius who finally makes it possible for the immoral characters to get the punishment they deserve. Lana Lee and George are corrupting innocent children, while Frieda, Liz, and Betty cause trouble and pick fights. All of these "bad" characters get what they have coming to them, thanks to Ignatius, since the chaos created by Ignatius at the Night of Joy leads to the arrest of all of them.