A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Compare John Kennedy Toole's Ignatius J. Reilly with Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote.

  2. 2

    Identify the various rehabilitation projects in the novel--instances where one character makes it his or her mission to rehabilitate and assist another character. What drives the characters to take on these projects? To what extent do they succeed or fail?

  3. 3

    What is the role of the city of New Orleans in the novel?

  4. 4

    Discuss the role that race plays in the book.

  5. 5

    Discuss Fortuna's wheel. How does it manifest itself throughout the story?

  6. 6

    Consider the familial relationships (parent/child, husband/wife, and so on) among characters and determine which relationships are healthy or unhealthy, normal or abnormal, dynamic or static.

  7. 7

    How does John Kennedy Toole achieve humor in the novel (exaggeration, irony, satire, understatement)?

  8. 8

    Discuss Ignatius's critique of modern, commercial society. Does it seem to be partly or completely correct? To what degree should we take this critique as Toole's? Why might we trust or distrust Ignatius's or Toole's perspective compared with that of other characters?

  9. 9

    What role does the image of the Plantation play in the novel?

  10. 10

    Contrast the characters of Ignatius Reilly and Myrna Minkoff. Do they hate each other, love each other, go back and forth, or partly like and partly dislike one another? Are their differences complementary or antagonistic?

  11. 11

    In what ways do characters in the novel use clothing and accessories (i.e. the earflaps on Ignatius' hat, Jones' sunglasses, etc.) to shield themselves from the outside world?

  12. 12

    How would you describe the relationship between employers and workers in the novel? How does this tension between labor and management reflect racial themes?