A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3

The Job Search

Ignatius returns from a day of job searching looking like he is ready to die. His valve closed on the streetcar. He relates a terrible and insulting interview at an insurance company--he was so insulted, in fact, that he was of course unable to look for any other jobs. Looking through the newspaper, Mrs. Reilly finds an ad by Levy Pants for a "clean," "hardworking" man who is the "quiet type." People are directed to apply between eight and nine in the morning. The prospect of waking so early does not appeal to Ignatius, yet he proposes that he get a job as a paper boy, with Mrs. Reilly driving him around to deliver the papers. She insists that he give Levy Pants a try.

The Tip

Patrolman Mancuso calls the Reilly residence to speak with Mrs. Reilly. When Ignatius answers the phone, he calls the officer a "mongoloid" and tells him that he should be spending his time investigating "dens like that Night of Joy." This strikes Mancuso as a great idea, and he sees it as an opportunity to get back into the Sergeant's good graces. He tells the Sergeant that he has a lead on the Night of Joy, but when the Sergeant asks where the information came from, Mancuso decides not to mention Ignatius again. Instead, he refers to a woman who had visited the bar. The Sergeant responds that the informant is probably herself a B-Girl and obviously not trustworthy. He tells Mancuso that today's costume is that of a soldier and then sends him away. The Sergeant sends a few undercover officers to the bar in case Mancuso is right anyway.

Levy Pants

Levy Pants is a wholesale pants producer. The office manager, Mr. Gonzalez, is extremely loyal and loves Levy Pants. He arrives early every day, eager to put the Levy Pants Plan into action. Mr. Levy himself is not so committed to Levy Pants, and he only comes in when he needs Gonzalez to make him reservations for some sporting event. The other pillar of the Levy Pants office is Miss Trixie, a senile old woman who only wants two things in life: the Easter ham that her employer has promised her (she never received her Thanksgiving turkey) and to retire. Gonzalez cannot allow her to retire, pursuant to Mrs. Levy's orders. Mrs. Levy, who took a correspondence course in psychology, believes that for her own good, Miss Trixie must remain employed so that she is made to feel wanted.

Aside from Miss Trixie, Gonzalez has great difficulty finding and retaining employees, due to the poor conditions and low wages. He is thrilled when the large, impressive figure of Ignatius J. Reilly appears. After some haggling about wages, Ignatius agrees to accept a filing job.

George and the Orphans

At the Night of Joy, Lana Lee constantly berates Jones for his subpar cleaning skills, and she threatens to call the police on him any time he talks back to her. Suddenly George, a young boy with oily hair and flamenco boots, enters the bar. He opens a flashy wallet and gives Lana a large roll of bills. Lana asks him if the "orphans liked them," and George responds that the orphans liked "the one on the desk with the glasses on." He suggests that Lana do more like that one, perhaps with a blackboard and book. Jones is immediately suspicious of George, and he presses his employer regarding what George is delivering to the orphans. Lana assures him that it is just a little charity.

Myrna Minkoff

Ignatius receives a letter from his ex-girlfriend, the minx Myrna Minkoff. It appears to be a response to previous correspondence from Ignatius about the attempted arrest and the car accident. She dismisses both incidents as paranoid fantasies, manifestations of his feelings of failure. She tells Ignatius that his only hope is to commit himself to some crucial problem of the times. Myrna also informs Ignatius that she is helping produce a bold and shattering movie, and she offers Ignatius the part of the landlord--the "sick, reactionary villian in the script." Ignatius is so offended and outraged by the letter that he vows that he will "show this offensive trollop."


Traditionally the "American Dream" concept involves the idea that through hard work and perseverance, an individual can raise himself up and attain financial and professional success. Toole's characters sometimes challenge this notion. In Chapter 3, Mr. Gonzalez and Officer Mancuso work hard and strive to succeed in their chosen professions, but their hard work continually goes unrewarded. Especially in the case of Gonzalez and Levy, the lazy, conniving employer benefits unjustly from the laborer's efforts. Patrolman Mancuso is a loyal officer who loves the force, and he puts one hundred percent of himself into catching suspicious characters, although he has shown a tendency to overdo it imprudently. When he comes into the precinct and presents a possible lead to his boss, the Sergeant dismisses his information as untrustworthy, berates Mancuso, and then throws him out, not giving him the credit that he might deserve (although the information truly was from an untrustworthy source, despite the lucky guess).

Similarly, Mr. Gonzalez is truly devoted to Levy Pants, arriving early to work each morning, ready to put the Levy Pants Plan into action. But though Gonzalez's hard work and dedication keeps the business running, Mr. Levy almost completely dissociates himself from the business and puts no effort toward its operation--yet he gains wealth and material comfort. Thus we see that contrary to the promise of the American Dream, it is not hard work but other factors (as minor as being the son of Leon Levy) that lead to financial achievement in this part of America.

The exchange between Lana Lee and George again symbolizes the loss of childhood innocence. Here, children are literally corrupted: Lana is operating a pornography racket that delivers obscene photographs to orphans and students. Further, she corrupts not only her customers, but also her employee. George is himself still a child, and Lana has involved him in a criminal enterprise. According to George, the photographs which received the highest approval are the ones where Lana poses as a teacher. It is sadly ironic that Lana takes the figure of a teacher, which is typically associated with instructing and caring for children, and turns it into an instrument for corrupting young minds.