Published in 1980, 11 years after the suicide of author John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces is often hailed as one of the funniest novels ever written.Set in New Orleans in the mid-1960s, the plot follows the misadventures and disasters of Ignatius J. Reilly, an over-educated, offensive and puritanical (not to mention grotesquely fat) slob as he is sent out by his mother to find work to pay for damages caused by a car crash. In his quest Reilly provides the catalyst for a range of sub-plots involving hot-dog vendors, university protests, factory owners, pornographers, and sociopathic lesbians as he wages war on modern culture across the city. His ghastly personal habits and complete marginal ability to notice the existence of other people stun the gentle reader.
American Accents: Toole does a decent job of reflecting the unique sound and speech patterns of Yat (working-class New Orleans English) without diving into full-on Funetik Aksent. Also, see Jive Turkey below.
Bad Boss: Lana Lee. She makes Jones work for peanuts and threatens to take him into the police when he complains. She also makes Darlene work on commission and beats her up "offscreen" when she botches a line.
Butch Lesbian: The local gay community includes several of these.
Camp Gay: Dorian Greene is the prime example, though everyone at his party (except Ignatius) is flamboyantly homosexual.
Celibate Hero: Reilly has a love-hate relationship with Myrna and fantasizes sexually about her, but can't bring himself to have sex with her in spite of her willingness. The ending suggests that this might change.
Cheap Costume: Mancuso is forced to parade around in a series of these as punishment for what happens in the first scene of the book with Ignatius.
To say nothing of Ignatius selling hot dogs dressed like a pirate/gypsy.
Mrs. Reilly likes a Muscatel (i.e. Moscato) for when she drinks (i.e. often); she keeps them in the oven, to Ignatius' consternation.
Santa Battaglia, meanwhile, likes Early Times bourbon whiskey and always seems to have some on hand.
At the Night of Joy, Ignatius, pretentious ass that he is, orders a fancy New Orleans chicory coffee. The barkeep tells him they only have instant; Ignatius is outraged. He eventually settles on a brandy. More usually, Ignatius will have a Dr. Nut (an almond-flavored soft drink produced in New Orleans at the time).
Dorian Greene drinks frozen daiquiris and similar such drinks.
Dye Hard: Apparently, Mrs. Levy has been dying her hair platinum-blonde for so long that she forgot that she was a natural brunette.
Dysfunction Junction: There is absolutely no one in this book that is quite right in the head, and pretty much everyone has issues to work out. In the end, many of them do (or are at least well on their way to getting better).
Extreme Doormat: Mr. Gonzalez is insanely tolerant of Ignatius and Miss Trixie's antics.
Fatal Flaw: Much of Ignatius' troubles would be resolved if he understood that his own actions actually had consequences and accepted his need to improve himself.
Fetish Retardant in-universe example: Darlene's striptease isn't appreciated too much by Burma Jones and Lana Lee.
Freudian Excuse: Ms. Annie, of all people, explains that most of Ignatius' bizarre habits and beliefs can be traced back to the death of his dog, Rex, as well as (what he felt was) the inappropriate response to his loss from his pastor and his mother.
Gus Levy himself has one in regards to his (mis)management of Levy Pants: his father who would insultingly reject any of his business advice. Thus Gus develop a disinterest in his company.
Freud Was Right: invokedOr so Mrs. Levy believes. She took a correspondence course in psychology (which she failed) and constantly tries to apply her "knowledge" to her husband and Miss Trixie. Of course, there's a real Freudian moment when it's revealed that, with the right makeup and a wig, Miss Trixie looks almost exactly like Mrs. Levy's mother.
Gayborhood: The French Quarter isn't one of these, but the fact that the Quarter attracts "characters" did actually help form a gay community there. Dorian Greene's party arguably shows a sort of intermediate stage in its development.
Gray and Grey Morality: No one is really a bad guy, but very few people seem to be actively working towards any good either. It makes it difficult to say who the heroes or the villains are in this story, but it works quite well.
Grumpy Old Man: Woman, actually. Miss Trixie hasn't been allowed to retire due to the insistence of Mrs. Levy; as a result, she becomes increasingly hostile and senile towards everyone except Ignatius.
Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Mrs. Reilly, Ignatius' mother, is accused of this by Ignatius and Ms. Annie. It is unclear how true their accusations are, but she seemed to have no qualms about getting plastered at the Night of Joy, early on in the book.
Lana Lee and George get their just desserts in the end. Though due to Values Dissonance, the crime they go down for, distributing pornography to high school kids, is much less villainous than their other actions from a modern perspective.
Ignatius suffers this as well, on a fairly regular basis... not that he understands the misfortune that befalls him is pretty much all his own fault.
Odd Friendship: Ignatius and Miss Trixie, though Ignatius is mostly just using her.
Only Sane Employee: Mr. Gonzalez, who has to deal with the stubborn Ignatius, the senile Miss Trixie, and the aloof Mr. Levy, whose only motivation for keeping Levy Pants alive becomes giving Mr. Gonzalez a job.
Only Sane Man: Mr. Levy. He's about the only character to feel compassion for Ignatius without being taken in by his fabrications.
Also, Patrolman Mancuso. Even then, he's a complete idiot in every other department.
Mrs. Reilly: You learnt everything, Ignatius, except how to be a human being.
Self-Serving Memory: Ignatius seems to have a very different account of events than what actually happened, though it's unclear if it's an example of this trope, plain old Blatant Lies, or a combination of both.
The Sixties: The time in which the book was written, as well as when it takes place.
Spicy Latina: Deconstructed with a waitress who works at Lana Lee's bar. She speaks in a combination of colorful Spanish phrases and You No Take Candle English. Toole initially describes her as vaguely flirtatious and wearing high-heeled sandals, so we get the sense that she's a sexpot. However, beauty is only skin-deep: she's loud, pushy, and has really bad breath.
Ignatius and Myrna hold political and philosophical positions that are both almost too absurd to be believed. Ignatius believes that Western civilization took a wrong turn at the Renaissance, favors the return of feudal monarchy, and believes the Catholic Church to be insufficiently strict at a time (the book probably takes place in 1963, during Vatican II) when most Catholics felt quite the opposite; Myrna is a combination of a Straw Feminist and a free-love hippy whose favorite activity—besides sleeping with random men—is organizing protests and rallies of various sorts (usually about how sex can solve everything).
Also, the old man from the beginning of the book who tries to stand up for Ignatius and whom Mrs. Reilly ends up running off to marry. He has a bizarre obsession with the "communiss." Some of the bystanders who see him get arrested feel sorry for him, though, especially since he has some beloved Catholic "grandchirren."
Unusual Euphemism: It is implied by Ignatius' outrage while reading Myrna's letters that, any time she describes a man as being "very real", there is a better than average chance that she has slept with him. Considering her position on sexuality, this isn't surprising.
Watering Down: One of the many ways Lana Lee tries to make a profit on her "investment".
Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: The plot of the book focuses on Ignatius getting various jobs to pay for his mother's car accident, including Levy Pants worker and hot dog vendor. He was also a college professor at one point.
You Keep Using That Word: Ignatius' valve keeps coming up, despite the fact that no one (probably including him) knows what valve he's talking about or whether it's actually possible to feel this valve open or close.