A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces Summary and Analysis of Chapter 14

After the visit by Mr. Levy, Ignatius spends the day locked in his room, repeatedly pleasuring himself with a rubber glove. The newspaper story made Ignatius something of a celebrity, and people he knew (Mrs. Reilly's relatives, neighbors, and people they had not seen in years) were calling all day. Each time the telephone rang, Ignatius worried it would be Mr. Levy calling back. But time and again, he just heard his mother complaining over the receiver how terrible the situation was, and how her name would be ruined.

Mrs. Reilly takes the phone as far from Ignatius' room as she can in order to call Santa Battaglia. She tells Santa that she is concerned that Ignatius has gotten himself into much worse trouble than the picture in the paper. She has finally come to the conclusion that for Ignatius's sake, he needs to be committed at Charity Hospital. Santa is delighted to hear that Mrs. Reilly has finally come to her senses and remarks that they will be sending out wedding invitations within a week. Further, Miss Annie is going to be out of her mind with jealousy when Claude uses his railroad pension to fix up the Reilly residence. Santa says that she will call up Charity and send someone to take Ignatius into custody. In the meantime, she instructs Mrs. Reilly to get out of the house and to come over to her place; she says that she will invite Claude over as well. Before leaving for Santa's, Mrs. Reilly stops in Ignatius's room to say goodbye. She kisses him and tells him she is sorry that it all has to end like this. She promises that she is going to take good care of him.

This cryptic goodbye deeply concerns Ignatius, and as his mother leaves the house, his mind races with thoughts of what she could possibly mean. He knows that she has been on the phone whispering, which she only did when speaking to Mrs. Battaglia. Moreover, he remembers that Santa had called for his taking a long vacation in the mental ward. Suddenly it all made sense: if he were committed, he would not be liable for prosecution by either Abelman (for libel) or Levy (for forgery). Determined not to end up at Charity Hospital, Ignatius decides to escape. He desperately searches him room for spare change that he can use for transportation. Just then, he hears three knocks at the door. Looking through the shutters, he is relieved to see Myrna Minkoff.

Myrna had decided that Ignatius needed more help than just a letter. She had jumped in her car and driven straight through the night. Now that she has arrived, she is ready for some rest before she gets to work rehabilitating her subject. Ignatius, however, says that they must leave immediately--that he must get away from this house and its terrible associations. He tells Myrna that he has been in a terrible state of depression and that his mother has decided to run off and get married--and now wants him out of the way. Ignatius claims that the attempted arrest, the car accident, and all of the fantasies he related to her in the letters were delusions that emerged when his mother first met that debauched old man. Myrna is delighted to see that her message has finally gotten through to Ignatius and that he is ready to make a change in his life. They scoop up the Big Chief tablets containing Ignatius's thoughts and writings, Ignatius packs a few belongings, and they run out to Myrna's car. Ignatius gets into the back seat (he refuses to sit in "that death trap of a front seat for highway travel") and begins barking orders and complaints at his savior. As they drive away from the Reilly residence, an ambulance passes with "Charity Hospital" written on the side. As they head out toward the highway, Ignatius takes one of Myrna's pigtails in one of his hands and presses it warmly to his wet moustache.


In the book's closing chapter, Mrs. Reilly has reached her breaking point. Her decision to have Ignatius committed at Charity Hospitalis is based mainly on the feeling that he is too much trouble for her. Her phone conversation about committing Ignatius confirms that her true motivation is to remove Ignatius, whom she views as an obstacle to her happiness. As soon as Mrs. Reilly indicates that she has come to the conclusion that Ignatius needs to be locked up, Santa starts planning Mrs. Reilly's wedding--they will be "sending out wedding invitations in about a week." They are already moving on: they discuss plans for Claude to turn Ignatius's room into a den. Mrs. Reilly does not seem inconsolably distraught like many mothers would be, although she does interact with her son shortly after getting off the phone.

Ultimately, Ignatius is saved from the mental ward of Charity Hospital. It is ironic, however, that Myrna Minkoff, who throughout the course of the novel has been portrayed as Ignatius's nemesis and the bane of his existence, serves now as his savior. In fact, Ignatius even appears to show affection toward Myrna, repeatedly stroking and kissing her pigtails. It is clear that they have had a love-hate relationship. Ignatius and Myrna may have wildly divergent political and social views, and they approach life in completely different manners. Ignatius has often cursed Myrna's name, acting as though she is at the root of all of his problems--a compatriot of Fortuna, sending his wheel downward. At the same time, however, many of their actions are done in order to impress each other. Myrna is often the driving force behind what Ignatius does; he consistently tries to prove his worth to her. Perhaps his apparent contempt for Myrna was really just a mask he wore for his own sake, to shield his true feelings of love and affection for her. This romantic ending puts the rest of Ignatius's choices in a new perspective.