A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6

Mattie's Rumble Inn & Sabotage

Mattie's Rumble Inn is a combination bar and grocery store with a predominately poor, black clientele. Jones is sitting at the bar, complaining to the owner, Mr. Watson, about his rotten lot down at the Night of Joy. He complains of the low salary; it does not provide a decent standard of living. Further, he feels trapped in this terrible position, since quitting may result in vagrancy charges and a prison sentence. Jones describes it as working in modern slavery. Mr. Watson suggests that Jones attempt a little sabotage. When Jones asks what he means, Mr. Watson gives the examples of a maid who puts too much pepper in the soup and the parking attendant who crashes a car. While Mr. Watson and Jones are discussing potential sabotage, another bar patron overhears them and informs them that a real demonstration is being organized down at the Levy Pants factory. A big white man has come into their factory, saying that they need to drop an atom bomb on the company. When the factory worker mentions that the man has a hunting cap, Jones realizes that this is the same big kook with a green cap about whom he is always hearing. He warns the factory worker that Ignatius is wanted by the police, which worries the worker, since he does not want to be led in a demonstration by a convict.

The Crusade for Moorish Dignity

Ignatius has organized a demonstration at Levy Pants to demand higher wages for the factory employees. Ignatius is convinced that Myrna will be seething with jealousy when she learns of his social crusade. He has instructed the factory workers to supply an arsenal for the protest: sticks, chains, clubs, and so forth. Ignatius arrives at the factory with a new camera to document the events. He is certain that the demonstration has great commercial potential. After a great deal of struggle, some workers are finally able to lift Ignatius's massive frame onto a table. From his perch, Ignatius addresses his mob. He reveals to them a large, yellow-stained bed sheet emblazoned with the words "Crusade for Moorish Dignity"--a banner to be carried proudly into battle. The workers, however, are not eager to carry Ignatius's soiled blanket.

Upon Ignatius's order, the makeshift choir begins singing spirituals, and the mob marches into the Levy Pants office. Their fearless leader is left behind, and Ignatius must go to great pains to get himself down from the table. In the process, the camera is broken. Ignatius enters the office behind the mob, pushes his way to the front of the crowd, and confronts Gonzalez. He asks the surprised, frightened office manager whether he refuses to help these people, and before Gonzalez can comprehend what is happening and provide an answer, Ignatius gives an "attack" order. This behavior strikes the workers as unfair, because he has not given Gonzalez the opportunity to speak. This issue, combined with the fact that word has spread that Ignatius may have a criminal record, leads to a kind of mutiny, and the crusade comes to an end.

Ignatius is then fired by Mr. Levy. He plans a week in bed, with service, so that he can rejuvenate himself. Mrs. Reilly will hear none of it, however, insisting that his job search resume immediately. It is clear to Ignatius that Fortuna has decided on another downward turn.


Mr. Levy returns to Levy's Lounge after firing Ignatius, and he tells Mrs. Levy about the events at the factory. He explains that the reason for Ignatius's firing was that he was telling the employees they were underpaid and overworked, and that Ignatius had advocated attacking the office and its manager. Mrs. Levy is shocked and appalled that Mr. Levy terminated this young idealist, who was only looking out for the interests of poor black workers. One of Mrs. Levy's favorite activities is writing to their two daughters, Susan and Sandra, and recounting all of the terrible things their father has done--so that she might turn them against Mr. Levy. She decides to use the information that Mr. Levy has fired a young activist as leverage to blackmail him. Threatening to send a letter to the girls, she demands that he bring Miss Trixie to the lounge so that she could work on rehabilitating the woman. Mr. Levy relents and agrees to present Miss Trixie.


Though "modern slavery" is an important theme throughout the novel, the scene in Mattie's Rumble Inn reveals that the black characters are not powerless to fight for equal status. Two possible methods of resistance are discussed here. First, Jones and Mr. Watson discuss sabotage as a means of vengeance, though it is likely that in freeing oneself from an oppressive job one will find no better job. Being without a job at all is particularly dangerous during this era, where unemployment may lead to a prison sentence for vagrancy. As we will see at the end of the novel, however, Jones's acts of sabotage lead to the eventual ruin of the Night of Joy, the imprisonment of Lana Lee--and improved employment prospects for Jones.

The other bar patron in Mattie's Rumble Inn reveals a stronger avenue of resistance that is available: mass demonstration and protest. By joining together and demanding better treatment, workers may be able to overcome the somewhat slavelike conditions to which they have been subjected. As with sabotage, protests and demonstrations carry risks. The demonstration may fail (as it does in the case of the "Crusade for Moorish Dignity"), and the protesters may suffer reprisals from their oppressors. The key point, however, is that the black characters in the story have tools available for challenging the persisting legacy of slavery.

What is more, the workers have a chance to decide whether to protest peacefully or violently. Despite the fact that they are prodded to violence by Ignatius, they see injustice in turning to violence without giving their employer a fair chance to respond, and they do not want to be associated with a possibly unjust man like Ignatius, so the protest dissolves.

The "Crusade for Moorish Dignity" puts into tension Ignatius's previously stated beliefs. Throughout the novel he has shunned consumerism and looked down upon those who strive to achieve financial success for its own sake. In the previous chapter, for example, he described "Negroes moving upward into the middle class" as an "awful spectacle." Yet, he has purchased a new camera for the demonstration, hoping to record the day's events. He notes that it may have commercial value and informs the workers, "At some future date all of us may realize some additional revenues from the rental of this film." This emphasis on marketing the film for monetary gain is inconsistent with Ignatius's repeated attacks on commercialism. Is he going to use the proceeds for any noble purpose? Similarly, the exchange between Ignatius and Mr. Gonzalez contradicts previous statements that he has "intense and deeply felt convictions concerning social injustice." If Ignatius were truly concerned for the plight of the factory workers and was sincerely committed to helping them get higher wages, he would engage in good-faith negotiations with the office manager in an attempt to persuade him to pay higher salaries. Instead, he does not even give Gonzalez the opportunity to speak, imprudently yelling "attack" before any discussions or negotiations take place. It seems that Ignatius is really more interested in making "Envy...gnaw at Myrna's musky vitals" than in ensuring that the workers receive a fair wage. Though he claims to be acting on behalf of the workers, they are really just pawns that he is exploiting for his own reason: to get even with the minx.

Ignatius is not the only character who claims to be helping someone while exploiting the person for personal ends. Mrs. Levy is clamoring to get Miss Trixie to Levy's Lounge so that she can continue her so-called philanthropic project. But we see in this chapter that among Mrs. Levy's hobbies is making her husband miserable, as evidenced by the letters she sends to her daughters, seeking to turn them against their father. It is likely that Mrs. Levy, despite her repeated claims to be acting in Miss Trixie's best interests, is mainly trying to maintain her position of dominance over Mr. Levy.