Study Guide

Myrna Minkoff in A Confederacy of Dunces

By John Kennedy Toole

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Myrna Minkoff

Ignatius is a Catholic medievalist who rejects the modern world and all its degeneracy (or so he says, anyway). Myrna, on the other hand, chases every hipster happening and trend. She is obsessed with sex—less because she actually wants to have sex all the time, it seems like, than because being obsessed with sex is the modern thing to do. Similarly, she embraces cutting edge activism—and gets a series of crushes on guys who seem to be cutting edge activists (and who all turn out to be frauds and bounders).

And yet Myrna's main obsession is with Ignatius, a guy who is not cutting edge in any way, shape, or form. Her interest even leads her to promote Ignatius's idea of a Divine Right Party, which is to say the beatnik hipster who talks about tearing down the hierarchy wants to organize on behalf of a restoration of kingship. By the same token, Ignatius is obsessed with her—leading him to try to organize a worker's revolt and advocate for homosexuals and generally involve himself in a bunch of progressive causes which he should by all rights loathe.

Just as it's not exactly clear that Ignatius loves Myrna (more on that over in his analysis elsewhere in this section), it's a bit hard to know what Myrna sees in Ignatius, or what she wants from him. Is she in love? We know from her letters that Myrna tends to fall in love with her idea of a guy, rather than the guy himself.

She clearly likes the idea of saving Ignatius—she is as enamored with the excitement of doing something as Ignatius is with sitting in one place. "'This is a very meaningful moment,'" she declares when Ignatius agrees to go with her at the end of the novel, "'I feel as if I'm saving someone'" (14.109). She's probably more accurate, though, when she declares shortly thereafter, "'Ignatius, all at once you're your old horrible self. All at once I think I'm making a very big mistake'" (14.129).

Insofar as their relationship is a perversion of the classic Medieval knight-in-shining-armor trope, with Myrna positioned as the knight and Ignatius functioning as the damsel in distress (she rescues him, after all, instead of the other way around), it is only fitting that she be promptly disappointed with whom she's rescued. Their relationship, after all, isn't one that redeems love—if anything, it calls into question the role that ego plays in adoration.

So though we may not know what happens after the novel's conclusion (see the "Analysis" section for more on the ending), there seems little doubt that someway, somehow, the ever-hopeful Myrna is going to be disappointed again. We just don't think there's such a thing as a happy ending in Ignatius's world.

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