A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7

Paradise Vendors, Incorporated

Ignatius once again sets out grudgingly on a job search. He comes across a garage that used to serve as an automobile repair shop but which now houses Paradise Vendors, Incorporated, a hot dog vending company. Aromas of hot dogs and cement soaked with motor oil fill his nostrils and pull him inside. There he sees an old man, Mr. Clyde, boiling hot dogs in a large pot. Ignatius inquires whether he can purchase one of the man's products.

After his fourth hot dog, Ignatius says that he must be off to continue on his job search. Mr. Clyde comments that he is himself in need of employees; it seems hot dog vending is not a popular trade, since the vendors are seen as "bums" and often fall victim to muggings and robberies. Mr. Clyde implores Ignatius to try vending, even if just for a day, but Ignatius is offended by the thought of pushing a hot dog cart. When he refuses and attempts to leave, Mr. Clyde asks for the dollar Ignatius owes for the hot dogs he has consumed. Ignatius replies that it will have to be "on the house," since his mother only gave him enough money for car fare. Clyde threatens to call the police, and Ignatius suddenly finds a hot dog fork at his throat. Then, a compromise is proposed: If Ignatius pushes around a cart for an hour, Mr. Clyde will consider them even. Determining that an hour of vending would be better than death by a rusty fork, Ignatius agrees to the terms.

Ignatius gets a hot dog cart and a white smock and then sets off on his route. but instead of vending the products, Ignatius spends the hour eating them himself. George, Lana's delivery boy, comes across Ignatius's cart and asks for a hot dog. But Ignatius's valve protests at the teen's pimples, surly face, aquamarine jacket, and flamenco boots. Instead, he rams the cart straight into George's crotch and moves along. When he returns to the Paradise garage, he makes up a story about being robbed. Mr. Clyde is skeptical (what type of a thief would rob the cart and take only hot dogs?), but he buys the story nonetheless. Ignatius agrees to return to work the next day.


Jones is putting the preliminary steps of his sabotage plan into action. When cleaning the floors, he plows rather than mops, ensuring that linear streaks of dust remain. But this is merely subtle sabotage; Jones has larger plans in store for Lana. Since the undercover officers have given up on the bar and are not coming in anymore, Lana no longer has any need for Darlene to perform on stage. Rather, Lana prefers that she return to working the stools and hustling drinks, since it is much cheaper to have someone like Darlene on commission than on salary. When Lana tells Darlene she cannot be an exotic, Darlene is heartbroken and pleads with Lana to give her and her bird a chance. Seeing an opportunity to further his sabotage goals, Jones joins in urging Lana to give the bird show a shot. Lana eventually gives in.

Lana has obtained a globe and chalk (which she deducts as business expenses, of course), which she purchased in preparation for satisfying the orphans' request for more of the teacher motif. Now she just needs a book, but she refuses to buy a book and decides that if George wants a book to be included, he will have to get it himself. Lana plans the appropriate pose in her mind--something that combines grace and obscenity. But it must be nothing too raw, since she is trying to appeal to children after all.

Disgrace & the Minx

Upon learning that Ignatius has taken a job as a hot dog vendor, Mrs. Reilly calls her friend Santa Battaglia and asks for advice. She is overcome with humiliation that her son, with all of his education and intelligence, has stooped so low as to become a "bum." Santa sympathizes with Mrs. Reilly's situation, and she indicates that her nephew, Patrolman Mancuso, is having career trouble of his own. He has still not apprehended a suspicious character, and the chill in the bus station bathroom has given him a terrible cold. Ignatius has loaned the officer a copy of Boethius's work, calling it "inspirational literature." Mrs. Reilly hopes the work, which is about being consoled by thinking about higher things while in an imprisoned state, will help cheer up Mancuso, though Santa does not trust anything from Ignatius. To get his mother's mind off of Ignatius's new employment, Santa suggests setting up a meeting between Mrs. Reilly and her admirer.

Meanwhile, Ignatius is splashing around in the tub, reading the most recent correspondence from M. Minkoff. The letter is written on a flyer, which announces that Myrna will be giving a lecture on "Sex in Politics: Erotic Liberty." Sex is also a primary theme in the letter. Myrna tells Ignatius that his paranoid delusions of the attempted arrest and car accident were probably the result of his "unhealthy attitude toward sex." She urges that he can find his "true self-expression and contentment through satisfying, natural orgasm." Ignatius decides he must respond to Myrna's offenses to taste and decency, and he pens a letter of his own (written on Levy Pants stationery). In it he predicts that a single old man will be the lone member of the audience during Myrna's lecture. With Myrna pounding sexual references into his head, he will no doubt "exhibit" himself. Ignatius closes the letter by informing Myrna that he is now connected with the food merchandising industry.


Ignatius's job selling hot dogs for Paradise Vendors, Incorporated, is his second foray into the working world. His chosen jobs seem to have a common characteristic: they lack supervision, giving Ignatius freedom to engage in whatever pursuits he wishes. At Levy Pants, Ignatius regularly came into work late and often put tasks aside while he worked on personal art projects (such as building and painting a cross, and preparing name plates for each office worker). He did this all under Gonzalez's nose and without any meaningful protest from the office manager. Moreover, he was allowed to visit the factory and spend the day chatting with the factory workers at his leisure. Similarly, he is able to operate as a Paradise Vendors employee without an authority monitoring him. He is able to walk wherever he wants, sit down to rest whenever he desires, and generally waste time. In accepting the position as a hot dog vendor, he notes that "The work offered little supervision and harassment," and he warns Mr. Clyde, "I cannot predict the hour at which I will arrive." Again, Mr. Clyde is not a stern employer; he accepts Ignatius's excuse on the first day.

The freedom which Ignatius enjoys at work contrasts sharply with the experience of the black workers in the story. The factory workers are described as working under conditions of "mechanized Negro slavery." Similarly, at the Night of Joy, Jones constantly has Lana Lee hanging over his shoulder, reprimanding him whenever he slacks on the job and berating him when his work does not measure up to her standards. Further, Ignatius and the workers enjoy different levels of freedom when it comes to changing jobs. Aside from the debt that the Reillys must repay as a result of the car accident, Ignatius can rely on having his mother's roof over his head and his late father's Social Security pension to support him. In contrast, Jones and the factory workers make barely enough to live on, let alone enough to save money to live on while looking for a new job. Moreover, even if they could afford to quit their present employment and go looking for a new job, it is likely that "no good jobs would be available." This situation may explain the divergence between Ignatius's disdain for the middle class and the black workers' attempts to enter it. Because his employment affords a great deal of freedom and his mother provides some degree of economic security (though not too much), Ignatius feels no need for economic advancement. He is unlike others of his class who remain unsatisfied and want more. Jones and the factory workers, meanwhile, work under harsh conditions, and their meager salaries deny them any kind of financial stability. As a result, they long to move up in class so that, like Ignatius, they can enjoy a greater measure of freedom and economic security.

Sex plays a major role in this chapter, and again it is used as a tool of advancement. We again see Lana Lee using her body and sexuality as a means of financial advancement, while we see Myrna Minkoff using sex for social and political activism.

Another familiar theme here is Mrs. Reilly's disappointment in Ignatius. The fact that Ignatius has obtained employment (even as a hot dog vendor) is a dramatic improvement over the Ignatius we met at the start of the novel, who divided his time between his bedroom, the television, and the movie theater. Moreover, the fact that Ignatius is out in the working world is more than can be said about Mrs. Reilly herself. Even though the car accident debt is hers, the prospect of working to help pay off the debt is never considered (even though it is the 20th century after all); instead, she spends her days sitting around the house, drinking muscatel, talking to Santa Battaglia on the phone, and going bowling. It is unclear how much of a model of initiative she has been for her son. Even though Ignatius is the only one bringing home a salary, Mrs. Reilly expresses disappointment that he is not measuring up to the model of success which she and her peers prefer. She is right; he is far from meeting his potential. But she seems to be embodying the stereotype of the parent who is never satisfied.