Study Guide

A Confederacy of Dunces Inertia

By John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces is a lengthy ode to the difficulty of being lazy. So many people in this novel work so hard to get out of working. Ignatius struggles and flops like a bloated, electrocuted flounder in his desperate efforts to avoid work; Mr. Levy creates headaches for himself because he doesn't want to work; Burma Jones spends the whole novel working to get out of his crappy job. Ignatius is always fulminating against the hideous modern demand that everybody work, but in Confederacy the real struggle is not to get ahead, but to finally—finally—get behind.

Questions About Inertia

  1. What characters work to get ahead in Confederacy? Are they better off than the ones who don't work to get ahead?
  2. How seriously are we supposed to take Ignatius's criticism of the culture of striving for success?
  3. Is Mrs. Reilly lazy? Provide evidence for your answer.

Chew on This

The only people who show get-up-and-go in Confederacy are police and criminals.

Miss Trixie and Ignatius get along because they are both equally inert.

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