A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces Summary and Analysis of Chapter 11

The Debbie Reynolds Movie

A relationship is growing between Mrs. Reilly and Claude Robichaux, and Santa holds another get-together to help push the romance along. But as usual, Mrs. Reilly is distracted by the grief Ignatius is causing her and spends most of the evening complaining about him. Santa again suggests shipping Ignatius away to Charity Hospital, and the idea seems to be growing on Mrs. Reilly. To get their minds off of Ignatius, they decide to see the new Debbie Reynolds movie. During the show, Claude reaches over and holds Mrs. Reilly's hand. Mrs. Reilly thinks back to the night that Ignatius was conceived (after she and Mr. Reilly went to a movie) and wonders what about movies makes men so amorous. When Santa exclaims that "little Debbie's gonna have her a baby," Mrs. Reilly screams wildly and bursts into crazy, loud tears.

The Abelman Debacle

Having grown bored with the Miss Trixie project, Mrs. Levy has let Mr. Levy return her to the Levy Pants office (much to the dismay of Gonzalez and Miss Trixie herself, who thought she had been retired). Mrs. Levy gives Mr. Gonzalez strict instructions to make sure that Miss Trixie is made to feel wanted.

After introducing Mr. and Mrs. Levy to Mr. Zalatimo (the gangster-looking fellow who has replaced Ignatius in the filing department and who has trouble alphabetizing), Mr. Gonzalez gives Mr. Levy a personal letter he has received from Mr. Abelman. The letter states that Mr. Abelman is bringing a libel suit for $500,000 against Mr. Levy, due to the letter calling Mr. Abelman a mongoloid and threatening to lash him. The threat of such a large lawsuit deeply concerns the Levys--particularly Mrs. Levy, who fears that she will have to resort to "Prowling in garbage cans."

As they stand in the office, trying to figure out who could have written the slanderous correspondence, Mr. Levy recalls the big fat character with the green cap whom he recently fired, and he asks Gonzalez for his name. Gonzalez replies that the kook's name is Ignatius Reilly, and after looking up the phone number, Mr. Levy calls the Reilly residence. Ignatius's mother answers the phone and tells Mr. Levy that Ignatius will not be returning until later that afternoon and then breaks into tears. As they drive home from Levy Pants, Mr. and Mrs. Levy contemplate how best to respond to the threatened lawsuit.

The Bun Compartment

George spends the day staked out in front of Paradise Vendors, awaiting the arrival of Ignatius. His plan is to offer him money in exchange for renting out his bun compartment a couple of hours each day. Ignatius finally emerges from the garage, and George hears Mr. Clyde yell after him that he better bring home at least five dollars of profits today or else.

As Ignatius pushes his cart along the street, his wheel gets lodged in the groove of a street car track. As he attempts to remove it, Ignatius knocks the whole thing over, directly in the path of an oncoming street car. George offers to help lift the cart, though Ignatius initially refuses the assistance, yelling at the "depraved urchin" to get away. But faced with the approaching tram, Ignatius gives in and accepts the aid. Once the cart is upright again, George hands Ignatius two dollars and asks if Ignatius can return the favor. Specifically, he has school supplies that he needs to deliver, but he cannot take them to the school until 3 p.m., after the school has closed, and he needs a place to store the supplies until then. George asks to rent out the cart's bun compartment in exchange for a couple of dollars each day. Ignatius recognizes George's deception (refusing to believe that supplies are to be delivered only after the school has closed), but after securing the first week's payment in advance, he agrees to the deal.

Before he lets George store his products in the compartment, Ignatius snatches one out of his hand and tears open the paper. Inside he finds a pornographic photograph with a nude woman sitting beside a globe on a desk, doing something suggestive with a piece of chalk. The woman's face is covered by the large book she is reading: a copy of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. Seeing the book, Ignatius is instantly delighted by the woman's brilliance and taste, and he decides he needs to find out who this brilliant woman is. Having seen an address written along the side of the package, Ignatius decides he will investigate later to determine the woman's identity.

Ignatius tells George that he has an appointment he must attend to (by which he means a movie he wants to see) and instructs him to tend to the hot dog cart for the next two hours. George protests that he will be late for his deliveries, but Ignatius responds that George is lucky that he doesn't report him to his undercover friend, Officer Mancuso. This scares George into compliance, and Ignatius heads to the theater.

Harlett O'Hara

After the movie, Ignatius decides to pursue his investigation and heads out to look up the address written along the side of the package. As he heads toward his destination, Ignatius reflects on how wise and beautiful this woman must be, and he even contemplates an affair (particularly because it might make Minkoff jealous). Ignatius is dismayed, however, when his search leads him to the Night of Joy. In the front he reads a poster that advertises an upcoming show at the bar; it says that Harlett O'Hara, the "Virgin-ny Belle," will be performing "with pet!" The poster intrigues Ignatius, and he wonders who this Harlett O'Hara could be and what kind of pet she might have.

Seeing Ignatius on the curb, Lana Lee sends Jones out to chase Ignatius away. Jones, however, cannot believe his good luck; "The fat mother dropped out of the sky just when he needed him most." Hoping to locate the Boethius-reading woman from the picture (and to save her from this stinkhole of sin), Ignatius asks Jones if there is a woman working at the bar who is "given to reading." Jones replies that there is--Darlene is quite fond of Life magazine--and tells him that if he comes back in a few days he can see her perform with her pet. Jones adds that Lana will be away on vacation and that he will make sure to get Ignatius a ringside table. Ignatius assures Jones that he will return to meet Harlett O'Hara. The exchange leaves both men with their spirits lifted. Jones's sabotage plot is finally set, and Ignatius looks forward to meeting the beautiful and brilliant muse from the picture. Ignatius feels certain that Fortuna has finally begun an upward swing.

Mr. Levy again calls the Reilly residence, and this time, Ignatius answers the phone himself. Realizing that a phone call from Mr. Levy may spell trouble, Ignatius uses a fake accent and tells his former employer that since being dismissed, Mr. Reilly has been at the state mental hospital at Mandeville. He further informs Mr. Levy that he is free to visit Mr. Reilly there, and he suggests that the man bring him some cookies.


The portrayal of Mrs. Reilly in Chapter 11 once again is far from a portrait of a loving, nurturing mother. Instead, in this chapter she is a reluctant mother. Ignatius's birth does not appear to have been the result of her conscious choice to bring a child into this world and to love and care for it. Instead, the conception and subsequent birth of Ignatius seem to have been inadvertent, the result of Mr. Reilly's overeager reaction to a movie that he and Mrs. Reilly had just seen. Moreover, Mrs. Reilly does not seem to be particularly pleased with this "mistake." This fact is evidenced by her emotional outburst during the Debbie Reynolds movie. The movie and Claude's advances (he holds hands with her during the film) remind her of the evening that Ignatius was accidentally conceived. When Santa exclaims that Debbie Reynolds's character is going to have a baby, it is too much for Mrs. Reilly to handle--she is reminded of all of the hardships her own baby has brought her. Furthermore, her son now is an obstacle to her marrying Claude and living off of his railroad pension. As a result, she starts considering Santa's proposal to get rid of Ignatius by sending him away to the Charity Hospital.

Levy Pants caused Mr. Levy a great deal of stress while he was growing up, since his own father was a mean and cheap man who refused to implement Mr. Levy's ideas. Now that he is a grown man and his father has passed away, Mr. Levy has the opportunity to operate Levy Pants the way that he wants to operate it, and to implement all of his ideas. But his father's cruel treatment has had a deep and lasting effect on him, and rather than seize the opportunity to make Levy Pants into his own business, he instead takes a hands-off approach, staying as far away as possible from the company so as to minimize any stress or bother. This plan backfires, and Mr. Levy's failure to keep an eye on the business causes him more stress than before. Because he did not monitor his employees, Ignatius was able to write a libelous letter on his behalf, and now he is facing a massive lawsuit from Mr. Abelman.

Faced with the prospect of the lawsuit, Mrs. Levy worries that they will lose all of their material possessions (which they use to distract themselves from the unhappiness of their lives) and end up on the street. In prior chapters, we suspected that her stated benevolence was mere pretext for keeping her husband miserable and subordinate to her. Here, we have our suspicion confirmed. The young idealist, Ignatius, is no longer the poor figure with whom she sympathizes and whom she attempts to champion; now she sees him as the scapegoat on whom she hopes to pin blame for the Abelman letter. This eagerness to turn on Ignatius, when she had previously defended him, reveals that her "concern" for him was never sincere--as Mr. Levy is quick to point out.

Throughout the novel, Ignatius has been portrayed as generally asexual and even somewhat disgusted by sex. We have seen that he refused Myrna Minkoff's many advances in college, and he shrieks with repulsion when reading the numerous sexual references in her letters. Moreover, on the few occasions Ignatius has expressed some form of sexuality, the sexuality has tended to be immature. In this chapter, it is surprising that he seems to show an actual sexual attraction to the nude woman (Lana Lee) in the photographs that George is delivering, and that he goes so far as to contemplate a sexual affair with her. Yet, here his sexual attraction seems predicated on his immediate appreciation for the book that she is reading, Boethius's The Consolation of Philosophy. This is the same book that he had said he admired so much. We have seen in earlier chapters that Ignatius puts a premium on knowledge, and his response shows that he is more attracted to her mind and intellect than to her body. Indeed, he calls her a "woman intellectual." Furthermore, he interprets his feelings in part as motivated by the idea that he can make Myrna Minkoff jealous by telling her about the affair.