A Confederacy of Dunces

Ignatius and Irene: Partnership and Polarization

Ignatius and Irene: Partnership and Polarization

by Daniel G. Dolgicer

December 07, 2005

Familial bonds add arresting dimensions to even the most torturously mundane of novels. The literary options are truly myriad; family ties can represent both complexity and simplicity, and provide characters with both adversity and appeasement. The intricate interaction between mother and son has particularly saturated the authorial mind since the dawn of literature. In A Confederacy of Dunces, author John Kennedy Toole utilizes the sacred union between mother and son in unprecedented fashion. In particular, the attitudes and activities of Irene Reilly and her son Ignatius determine the tone of the novel and guide its course of events. While Irene and Ignatius Reilly are both inherently insecure and unassertive, they attempt to remedy these debilitating traits in contrasting fashion. Irene betters herself, while Ignatius pursues negativity; Irene attempts high fashion, socialization, and dominance, while her son pursues pompousness, malignity, and gluttony. The psyches of the mother and son clan shed their default parallels and conclude the novel amidst tense polarization.

At the core of her complex character, Irene Reilly is defined by...

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