Study Guide

A Confederacy of Dunces Family

By John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces loves bickering. Give the novel two people who despise each other, and throw them in a scene where they are telling each other how despicable they are, and the novel is quite happy. And since nobody bickers like family bickers, the novel is careful to arrange for at least a couple of endless, ongoing family quarrels—the one between Ignatius and his mother, and the one between Mr. and Mrs. Levy. Both are very funny, though we prefer Mr. and Mrs. Levy, if only because the combatants seem more easily matched.

Either way, it's clear that in this book, as in many comedic traditions, families are mostly there to make their members (amusingly) miserable.

Questions About Family

  1. How is Mr. Levy's relationship with Sandra and Susan similar to or different from Mrs. Reilly's relationship with Ignatius?
  2. Might Ignatius and Myrna be seen as a family? Why or why not?
  3. How is Mr. Levy's life influenced by his relationship with his father?

Chew on This

Families in A Confederacy of Dunces are mostly machines designed to generate guilt.

There is sex in A Confederacy of Dunces, and there are families, but the two never meet, except by accident.

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