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Literature / A Confederacy of Dunces

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When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
Jonathan Swift, used as the epigraph and source of the title

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 overeducated, 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 subplots 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 completely marginal ability to notice the existence of other people stun the gentle reader.



  • Accidental Misnaming: Miss Trixie keeps referring to Ignatius as "Gloria," confusing him with an employee who was let go the same day he was hired.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Dorian and his friends certainly meet the description.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Or 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.
  • Alliterative Name: Myrna Minkoff, Lana Lee, and Betty Bumper.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Levys. Levy is a common Jewish surname, and Mr. Levy owns a garment factory, which is a common occupation among Jews. However, it's mentioned that the Levys celebrate Christmas, implying that Mr. Levy may be the only Jew in the family.
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  • Anti-Hero / Villain Protagonist: Ignatius definitely qualifies as one or the other. He is so horrible and inconsiderate and he tends to offend just about everyone he meets that he definitely qualifies as an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, if not these tropes as well.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: Ignatius' time at Paradise Vendors. It begins with him just having to wear a cruddy white smock (and refusing to wear the belt and paper cap that go with it). Later, his boss decides to send him out dressed as a pirate. The full pirate outfit won't fit Ignatius, so he ends up wearing just the accessories (scarf, earring, and plastic sword) with the white smock.
  • 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 the latter botches a line.
  • Basement-Dweller: Ignatius is the 1960s equivalent of this trope: lives with his mother (whom he is entirely dependent upon) at the age of thirty, lazy, childish, irresponsible, mean-spirited, possessed of particularly unpleasant facial hair, unemployed (until his mother forces him to get a job), and a chronic masturbator.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Ignatius is determined to do this by showing up Myrna on her terms of mixing sex and politics by recruiting members of the gay community for his own bid to "save the world".
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Hinted at as a component of Ignatius's repressed, damaged sexuality. Consider his heightened interest when he finds out Harlett O'Hara will be performing with a "pet", or the fact that his masturbatory fantasy is a happy memory of his late dog.
  • Big "OMG!": Ignatius tends to bellow "Oh, my God!" whenever anything offends his sensibilities. The phrase appears an average of about once every five pages.
  • Bile Fascination: Invoked. Ignatius deliberately watches TV programs and films just to complain about how degenerate they are. The films of Doris Day are his "favorites" in this regard. He has a similar attitude towards Myrna's letters; he's eager to read them, though he's always outraged by their content.
  • Black Comedy Prison Rape: The implied fate of Lana Lee in the prison cell with Frieda, Betty and Liz.
  • Bland-Name Product: Levy Pants instead of Levi Jeans.
  • Body Motifs: Ignatius' pyloric valve (usually just referred to as "the valve"), which, according to Ignatius, causes him gastrointestinal problems when something stresses him.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Ignatius, who yearns for a time before the Enlightenment, preferably with an absolute monarchy and "a good authoritarian Pope."
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Happens to Ignatius progressively over the course of the book, though most of it is his own fault.
    • Also Mrs. Levy, whose Henpecked Husband fights back in a glorious way when Ignatius (rather improbably) provides him with the means to shatter her pretensions.
  • Brick Joke: Most of the jokes/plot points beyond the first few chapters are started long before they actually come into play. The more you can remember from earlier in the book, the funnier it is.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Ignatius, despite having a college degree, lazes around and, during the story, works jobs for which he is massively overqualified. Irene bitterly notes that he is wasting his potential.
  • Burger Fool: Ignatius' job with Paradise Vendors is the period equivalent to this: selling bad food while dressed in a ridiculous costume, as everyone around him remarks that hot dog vendors are just the lowest of the low.
  • 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.
  • Character Development:
    • Irene definitely changes for the better over the course of the story when she makes friends with Mancuso's family and starts building a life for herself outside taking care of Ignatius, eventually growing enough backbone to stand up to his bluster. Ignatius himself pointedly does not change much and never honestly admits to his many faults, but this is perfectly consistent with his arrogant nature. The confession he makes to Myrna is a hasty ploy to stay out of the loony bin, but his barely-disguised fondness for her leaves some hope that he might get better.
    • Mr. Levy grows more comfortable with standing up to his nagging wife and becomes more interested in running Levy Pants instead of leaving it to languish.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Ignatius' copy of The Consolation of Philosophy. He insists that his mother pass it on to Patrolman Mancuso to improve his mind; when Mancuso is stuck on plainclothes duty in the bus station restroom, he takes to reading it to pass the time, and when George stops by the restroom and Mancuso tries to arrest him, George steals the book in the ensuing scuffle. Recalling that Lana needs a book for a teacher-themed photo series, he passes the book on to her; when he tries to persuade Ignatius to stash his delivery envelopes in his hot dog wagon, Ignatius looks inside one of the envelopes, sees the title of the book, and becomes very interested in meeting the picture's subject, leading him to the Night of Joy on the day the book's plotlines collide in spectacular fashion.
    • Darlene's "dance" routine. She insists on involving her cockatoo, which she has trained to strip off her clothes with the aid of strategically placed rings. When Ignatius shows up on opening night, he's still wearing the earring from his costume from Paradise Vendors...
    • Ignatius' letter from Levy Pants, written in his inimitable style to a customer complaining about a delivery of pants that were several feet too short. Much later in the book, Gus Levy gets a letter back from the customer threatening a libel suit for $500,000, which ultimately sparks him to re-brand Levy Pants as Levy Shorts and shift their focus to Bermuda shorts. He also starts standing up to his wife and, despite knowing Ignatius wrote the letter becuase said inimitable style bleeds over into his speech, gets Miss Trixie out of his life by conning her into confessing to writing the letter.
  • The Chew Toy: Patrolman Mancuso. He is forced into a variety of degrading Paper-Thin Disguises by his superiors, who refuse to reassign him until he makes an arrest, any arrest. His disguises fool nobody, and at one point he catches a horrendous cold from having to sit in bus station restroom stalls all day. Meanwhile, his fellow officers quietly decide to use his tip of something funny going on at the Night of Joy to put together a sting operation themselves without letting him have any of the credit. However, the plainclothes officers trying to lay the groundwork for the sting are recognised as such immediately, and end up with no evidence — which just convinces Mancuso's superiors that he made the whole thing up.
  • The City: New Orleans, particularly the French Quarter.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Just try to read the chapter where Ignatius blithely eats all the hot dogs in the Paradise Vendors cart without cracking up. It's impossible. This is made doubly funny by his attempt to "adopt" a stray cat by stuffing it in the vending cart alongside the hot dogs.
  • Condescending Compassion: Ignatius expresses sympathy for the plight of racial and sexual minorities in New Orleans, but does so in the most insultingly backhanded ways imaginable.
  • Consummate Liar: Ignatius is shockingly good at lying to further his own ends. Too bad he tends to screw up the execution.
  • Cool Old Lady:
    • Santa Battaglia is the period equivalent, insisting on remaining active, having fun, and setting up her younger friends with each other despite being a "grammaw" with "grandchirren". She's also aware of the kind of person Ignatius is, and tells off Irene for taking care of him.
    • Offscreen, Mrs. Levy's mother. "On the beach in San Juan every winter. A tan, a bikini. Dancing, swimming, laughing. Boyfriends."
  • Covers Always Lie: The image of Ignatius with a bird on his head which appears on the softcover edition. It must depict the scene late in the book in which Darlene's cockatoo attacks Ignatius because it wants his earring. But the picture doesn't show him in his pirate outfit, which is an intrinsic part of the action of the scene.note  In a way this makes sense: the image does nothing to spoil either the humor or the carefully-constructed confluence of subplots in the scene. But then, why choose that scene for the cover at all?
  • Covert Pervert: Ignatius' moralistic façade hides his invokedbizarre masturbatory fantasies.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: One of Ignatius' more common responses to frustration and disappointment.
  • Delinquent: George, a high-school-age kid who plays hooky, gives himself ludicrous fake tattoos, and sells pornography to his peers.
  • Deus ex Machina: Myrna showing up to whisk Ignatius away doesn't come completely out of nowhere, but the timing is so perfect that Fortuna herself had to have ordained it. Ignatius Lampshades as much.
  • The Ditz: Darlene. She has to deliver a single line for her striptease act, and after days of practice, she still messes it up every time.
  • Dirty Communists: Mr. Claude Robichaux loves to accuse people he doesn't like of being "communiss".
  • Dye Hard: Invoked. Apparently, Mrs. Levy has been dying her hair platinum-blonde for so long that she forgot that she was a natural brunette.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Absolutely nobody in this book 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).
  • Either/Or Title: In-universe example: Ignatius begins The Journal of a Working Boy, Or, Up from Sloth. This is the most self-awareness he shows in the entire book.
  • Epic Fail: Ignatius leaves a long trail of these in his wake.
    • The "Crusade for Moorish Dignity", an attempt to organize the workers at Levy Pants. After they march up to the office, they get a bit tired of Ignatius' exhortations to violence, and it peters out. The end result is Ignatius getting fired, being the only person Mr. Levy has ever fired.
    • His attempted political rally at Dorian Greene's party. Nobody cares what he has to say, he kills everybody's good vibes, and in the end he has to flee before some lesbians kick his ass.
    • His trip to Night of Joy to see "Harlott O'Hara": He ends up attacked by Darlene's bird, is nearly hit by a bus, and ends up in the hospital. The picture of him passed out ends up in the paper, causing him to lose his job. And all that is the tip of the iceberg.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Ignatius' opening scene, with him telling off Mancuso, annoying him, and manipulating the crowd and Irene to get himself out of trouble demonstrates Ignatius' blowhard personality.
    • The same scene from above shows Mancuso's weakness as a police officer.
    • Irene fussing over getting Ignatius his beloved cake while her elbow aches demonstrates her nature as a Pushover Parent.
  • Everything Is Racist: Myrna often accuses people who disagree with her ideas of being anti-Semitic. At one point, she accuses Ignatius of it for writing her a letter on stationery bearing the letterhead of Levy Pants, Ignatius' then-workplace.
  • Extreme Doormat: Mr. Gonzalez is insanely tolerant of Ignatius and Miss Trixie's antics. Irene is this to Ignatius, and spends much of her plot arc growing out of it.
  • Fan Disservice: The scenes in which we read about Ignatius choking the chicken, as it were, would be bad enough just in principle. What he thinks about while he's doing it makes it invokedabout ten times worse.
  • Fatal Flaw: Many of Ignatius' troubles would be resolved if he understood that his own actions actually had consequences and accepted his need to improve himself.
  • Fat Bastard: Ignatius. The fattest character in the book, and its self-centered Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Mr. Clyde even calls Ignatius a "fat bastard" during an argument.
  • Fetish Retardant: In-universe example. Darlene's striptease isn't appreciated too much by Burma Jones and Lana Lee.
  • F--: Mrs. Levy took a Correspondence Course in psychology some time before the events of Confederacy. The school refused to give her an F.
  • Foil: Myrna Minkoff downplays this somewhat. Her unrealistic left-wing perspective certainly contrasts with Ignatius' unrealistic right-wing and reactionary views, but she definitely shares his same rigid temperament and detachment from reality.
  • 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 priest and his mother.
    • The narration at one point mentions an embarrassing incident from Ignatius' adolescence when a science experiment gone wrong when he was in high school frightened him so much that he wet himself and had to walk around school in soiled trousers for the rest of the day. It's one of the few things in the novel that lends him a trace of humanity.
    • Gus Levy himself has one in regards to his (mis)management of Levy Pants: his father insultingly rejected all his business advice. Thus, Gus developed a disinterest in the company.
  • Funetik Aksent: Jones and other black characters are especially inclined to speak this way, but a few phonetic spellings — most notably, "communiss" — turn up in almost everybody's dialogue.
  • Gasshole: Ignatius and his "temperamental valve".
  • Gayborhood: The French Quarter isn't yet one of these at the time the book is set, but the fact that the Quarter attracts "characters" did 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. Most people, Ignatius included, are just trying to get by.
  • 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.
  • Happy Ending: For the most part. Mrs. Reilly finally gets away from the misery of looking after Ignatius and plans to marry Claude Robichaux, Mancuso finally makes an arrest by collaring Lana Lee for solicitation and selling pornography to minors and may get a promotion out of it, Gus Levy has regained his self-confidence and his interest in running Levy Shorts (formerly Levy Pants) and may plan to offer Burma Jones a job with a living wage in the factory, Miss Trixie will finally be allowed to retire, Darlene appears to be on the brink of finding another job now that Lana is in jail, and Ignatius leaves New Orleans moments before he can be committed to start a new life with Myrna.
  • 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.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • Ignatius keeps warning people to stop "molesting" him.
    • Lana calls Burma Jones "jailbait".
  • Henpecked Husband: Mr. Levy.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ignatius, repeatedly, though he seems to think he just has bad luck.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Everyone seems to catch the stupid when Ignatius comes around with his insane ideas, at least long enough for him to convince them to do what he wants them to do. Mrs. Levy is the worst, thinking that Ignatius and Miss Trixie are competent employees, and for not accepting Mr. Levy's father as the stubborn ass he was.
  • The Horseshoe Effect: Parodied when Myrna sends Ignatius a letter describing a folk singer who gave her a pamphlet detailing a conspiracy theory that the Pope was planning to amass a nuclear armoury. She assumed that the folk singer was a leftist anti-religious civil rights activist, and only later realized that the pamphlet was actually published by the far-right (and notoriously anti-Catholic) Ku Klux Klan.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Ignatius is obsessed with the chastity of every woman around him, especially those he sees in movies. He sees no contradiction with his obvious sexual fantasizing or obsession with Myrna.
    • Ignatius' speech to Mancuso at the beginning of the book is hilariously hypocritical, as he fits into at least two or three of the categories of people he rails against.
    • Ignatius rails against modern Western civilization — while reading Silver Age Batman comics and watching Yogi Bear.
  • If I Were a Rich Man: Jones comments on his desire to get out of poverty.
  • It Amused Me: Most of the characters who chose to interact with Ignatius mostly find him an amusing clown, not the intellectual he claims to be. This feeling dies as Ignatius inevitably wears out his welcome.
  • Jerkass:
    • Reilly is the ultimate example, though most others in the book qualify at points.
    • Lana Lee is also pretty nasty.
  • Jive Turkey: Burma Jones. Pages and pages of the book are taken up with his own, hysterical, highly Nawrleen-accented speech. "Whoa! You don't gotta be like that. Oo-wee!"
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Ignatius does suffer some ignominies during the course of the book, but despite all of his cruel and mean-spirited behaviour he ends the book not really any worse than how he started.
    • Also inverted: what goes worst for Ignatius is the single disaster that he did the least to orchestrate.
  • Large Ham: Ignatius, figuratively and literally.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Lana Lee and George get their just deserts in the end. Though due to invokedValues 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, semi-regularly ... not that he understands the misfortune that befalls him is pretty much all his own fault.
  • Lazy Bum: When Ignatius finally does get a job, he seems to do just about everything other than the work for which he is being paid. At Levy Pants, he files most of the paperwork he comes across straight into the wastebasket, and at Paradise Vendors, he eats most of his own inventory and even chastises potential customers for bothering him. Only when he wants to earn money to see "Harlett O'Hara" does he actually do any work.
  • Listing the Forms of Degenerates: Ignatius to Patrolman Mancuso in the opening scene:
    Ignatius: This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, hedonists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians, all of whom are only too well protected by graft. If you have a moment, I shall endeavor to discuss the crime problem with you, but don't make the mistake of bothering me.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The title is taken from a Jonathan Swift quote.
  • Literary Necrophilia: A man also calling himself John Kennedy Toole and claiming to be the original's illegitimate son wrote a sequel novel called A Cornucopia of Dunderheads that focused on Ignatius' adventures in New York.
  • Lord Error-Prone: Ignatius has many of these attributes, but without any of the influence and power.
  • Loser Protagonist: Ignatius.
  • The Makeover: Mrs. Levy forces one on Miss Trixie, fitting her out with new clothes, dentures, makeup, a black wig, and a habit of parroting the phrase "I am a very attractive woman." Trixie discards most of these at the first opportunity.
  • Malaproper: Darlene keeps screwing up the single line she is supposed to deliver as the Southern stripper character "Harlett O'Hara." Thankfully, no one seems to notice.
  • Manchild: Ignatius spends much of his time watching cartoons, and is very high-strung.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ignatius is surprisingly good at getting people to do what he wants them to do ... at least for a while.
  • Meaningful Rename: Dorian Greene gave himself the name as a Shout-Out to The Picture of Dorian Gray. It suggests his pleasure-seeking, homosexual lifestyle.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe example — Ignatius' constant references to "Fortuna" demonstrate he didn't understand what Boethius' work was actually about.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Jones tells Patrolman Mancuso about Lana Lee's illegal porn business.
  • MST: Ignatius does this for what he perceives as the "offenses against taste and decency" in popular culture.
  • Never My Fault: Ignatius is the king of this. His mother calls him out twice when he blames his problems on Myrna, who isn't even in town.
  • Nice Girl: Darlene. She's one of the few characters who doesn't mistreat or look down at Burma for being black, and she's even (relatively) tolerant of Ignatius, only calling him out when the big oaf drives Irene to tears, and only resenting him when he ruins her performance.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: As far as we know, the stray cat Ignatius stuffed in the hot dog cart got away fine.
  • 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.
    • Burma Jones at the Night of Joy, figuring out Lana's machinations right away.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Mr. Levy. He's about the only character to feel compassion for Ignatius without being taken in by his fabrications.
    • Patrolman Mancuso. Even then, he's a complete idiot in every other department.
    • Santa Battaglia, who makes it her mission to get Irene to lead her own fulfilling life, and especially to get her to send Ignatius to a mental hospital.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Mr. Levy has pretty much has zero interest in running his factory, since his father callously shot down every one of his ideas. He regains interest in the company after Ignatius nearly gets him sued by one of his clients.
  • Police Brutality: Burma Jones' subplot is about him trying to find employment so the police stop arresting him as a vagrant.
  • Potty Failure: Ignatius wet his pants in high school after being startled by a science experiment.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Frieda, Betty and Liz, incredibly violent and stereotypical butch lesbians whose main pastime seems to be brawling. They are last seen preparing to rape Lana Lee.
  • Pushover Parents: Irene at first. But eventually she grows a spine and becomes increasingly frustrated with Ignatius' failures and excuses, and decides to have him shipped off to the mental ward.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Myrna wore glasses "to prove her dedication and intensity to purpose".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Irene gives Ignatius a good one towards the end.
    Mrs. Reilly: You learnt everything, Ignatius, except how to be a human being.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Miss Trixie. She loses the thread in the middle of conversations, consistently calls Ignatius Gloria (after his female predecessor, who is The Ghost), and once shows up at the office still in her nightclothes.
  • 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.
  • Senior Sleep Cycle: Miss Trixie tends to doze off at odd moments.
  • Serial Escalation:
    • You will not believe the ways in which the plot threads interact with each other, or how they all manage to tie up so well in the end.
    • Also, despite being by far the heaviest person in the book in the beginning, Ignatius manages to gain even more weight as the story progresses especially after he gets his job at Paradise Vendors.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Ignatius' preferred method of speech.
  • Seven Deadly Sins:
    • Ignatius, unsurprisingly, manages to embody them.
      • Ignatius considers himself to be above others in intellect, and refuses to consider the feelings of others (Pride).
      • Ignatius refuses to do any actual work, spending most of his days loafing around (Sloth).
      • He is obese, forces Irene to buy him junk food, and steals the hot dogs from the Paradise Vendors stand (Gluttony).
      • He envies Myrna for her intellectual pursuits (Envy).
      • He constantly chokes the chicken and has very hidden desires for Myrna (Lust).
      • Even when he earns money, he refuses to give any to Irene to help her pay off her debt (Greed).
      • He has a mean temper, and often mistreats Irene (Wrath).
    • Other characters in the story embody some sins too.
      • Lana Lee squeezes her employees and deals pornography under the table, even posing for some pictures (Lust and Greed).
      • Mr. Levy doesn't do much but lie around, not taking any interest in his factory (Sloth).
      • Mrs. Levy constantly belittles her husband and forces her ideals onto others, believing herself to be right (Pride).
      • Frieda, Betty, and Liz are boisterous and often attack people (Wrath).
      • Myrna is as implacably convinced of her own intellectual rightness as Ignatius, writes about living off handouts from her father and doesn't do anything classically considered socially useful, and has casual group sex as her pet cause (Pride, Sloth, and Lust).
  • Shout-Out: Numerous, but the most obvious one that isn't a direct reference is Dorian Greene, who was named for the title character in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
  • The '60s: The time in which the book was written, as well as when it takes place.
  • Soap Box Sadie: Myrna is noisily dedicated to a number of leftish causes, sexual liberation in particular.
  • Southern Belle: Darlene's character, "Harlett O'Hara", in the retooled version of her bird act.
  • 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.
  • Straw Character:
    • Ignatius and Myrna hold political and philosophical positions that are both almost (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 hippie whose favorite activity — besides sleeping with random men — is organizing protests and rallies of various sorts (usually about how sex can solve everything). Naturally, they're perfect for each other.
    • Claude Robichaux, the old man from the beginning of the book who tries to stand up for Ignatius and whom Mrs. Reilly eventually falls in love with. 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 six beloved Catholic "grandchirren".
  • Sword Fight: Ignatius with a plastic sword versus Clyde with his giant two-pronged fork. For no reason at all. (Well, maybe one specific reason...)
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Ignatius is a devotee of Dr. Nut, a real soft drink that was popular mid-century in the New Orleans area, but has long since been discontinued (for the curious, mixing Dr. Pepper with Amaretto makes for a close facsimile).
  • Trash of the Titans: Miss Trixie is strongly implied to be a hoarder. Not only is her apartment stuffed with junk, with only a narrow path of clear floor, but she also carries big bags of miscellaneous items to and from work and squirrels away the office phone books in her desk, where nobody else is allowed to touch them.
  • Unreliable Narrator: While everyone embellishes the truth a bit, any story told by Ignatius is guaranteed to be at most a half-truth. His grandiose language and mannerisms help him exaggerate his problems.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Ignatius, obviously.
  • 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.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Miss Trixie is not shy about telling Mrs. Levy off when Mrs. Levy takes her on as a cause and smothers her with unwanted care.
  • Verbal Tic:
    • Jones' dialogue is peppered with exclamations of "Whoa!" and "Ooo-wee!"
    • Ignatius tends to say "I suspect".
  • Watering Down: One of the many ways Lana Lee tries to make a profit on her "investment".
  • White Man's Burden: How Ignatius feels about the black factory workers at Levy Pants. Of course, being Ignatius, he expresses his concern in the most condescending manner possible when he starts his "Crusade for Moorish Dignity".
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Mancuso is forced to parade around "undercover" in a series of costumes as punishment for what happens in the first scene of the book with Ignatius.
  • Work Off the Debt: How Ignatius gets hired at Paradise Vendors. He has no other way to pay for all the hot dogs to which he's helped himself. Indeed, this trope is Ignatius' storyline. Irene makes him get a job to pay the damage she caused from driving into a building while drunk.
  • You Need to Get Laid: What Myrna thinks Ignatius' problem is. She thinks it's the whole world's problem, actually, but regarding Ignatius she might be right (stopped clocks, you know).


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