Study Guide

Gus Levy (Mr. Levy) in A Confederacy of Dunces

By John Kennedy Toole

Gus Levy (Mr. Levy)

Gus Levy, the owner of Levy Pants, doesn't seem like he's going to be a major character in the novel. But he sneaks up, and sneaks up… and by the end he's taking up as much space as anybody short of Ignatius himself.

Two Lazy, Together

Mr. Levy is similar to Ignatius in a lot of ways. Just as Ignatius constantly bickers with his mother, Mr. Levy constantly bickers with his wife, Mrs. Levy. This parallel actually misleads Mr. Levy—he sympathizes with Ignatius because he sees him as hen-pecked, just as he sees himself as hen-pecked. As a result he believes Ignatius when he says he did not forge a letter in his name. (Though the error in judgment ultimately works out to Mr. Levy's advantage.)

The main way that Mr. Levy is like Ignatius, though, is that they are both lazy and obsessed with comfort. Mr. Levy's home is described as being "as sensually comfortable as the human womb supposedly is. Every chair sank several inches at the lightest touch" (4.134). Ew and ah

Moreover, Mr. Levy spends most of his time trying to avoid work. Going into Levy Pants gives him heartburn (like Ignatius, he too appears to have a valve—more on that in the "Symbols" section). In large part this is because he disliked his father, who built Levy Pants, and appears to have been a fairly unpleasant person. So rather than deal with his father's business, Mr. Levy leaves almost all the day-to-day business to the grateful, pitiful, Mr. Gonzalez, and spends most of his own time going to sporting events.

More Effort for Less Effort

Mr. Levy is like Ignatius, too, in that the effort he devotes to putting in no effort actually makes his life harder rather than easier. Check it out:

Mr. Levy straightened his newspaper and realized again that […] he should have given his time to supervising Levy Pants. Things like this would not happen; life could be peaceful. But just the name, just the three syllables of 'Levy Pants,' caused acid complications in his chest. Perhaps he should have changed the name. (13.119)

This is an insight that Ignatius never manages, and it eventually allows Mr. Levy to reorganize his life. He decides to have his factory start making Bermuda shorts, to change its name (to Levy Shorts), and to become more involved in day-to-day-business. Ignatius would disapprove of all this striving and achievement… but Mr. Levy, at least, seems likely to be happier when he becomes un-Ignatiused. Can't say we're surprised.

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