A Confederacy of Dunces
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"A Confederacy of Dunces" Summary

By John Kennedy Toole

fiction | 374 pages | Published in 2019

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World' 'My favourite book of all time... it stays with you long after you have read it - for your whole life, in fact' Billy Connolly A monument to sloth, rant and contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern - this is Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, noble crusader against a world of dunces. The ordinary folk of New Orleans seem to think he is unhinged. Ignatius ignores them, heaving his vast bulk through the city's fleshpots in a noble crusade against vice, modernity and ignorance. But his momma has a nasty surprise in store for him: Ignatius must get a job. Undaunted, he uses his new-found employment to further his mission - and now he has a pirate costume and a hot-dog cart to do it with... Never published during his lifetime, John Kennedy Toole's hilarious satire, A Confederacy of Dunces is a Don Quixote for the modern age, and this Penguin Modern Classics edition includes a foreword by Walker Percy. 'A pungent work of slapstick, satire and intellectual incongruities ... it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue' The New York Times


Estimated read time: 2 min read

One Sentence Summary

A comically absurd tale of a pompous and eccentric protagonist navigating the eccentricities of New Orleans.


"A Confederacy of Dunces" is a comedic novel written by John Kennedy Toole and published posthumously in 1980. Set in New Orleans in the early 1960s, the story follows the eccentric and larger-than-life character of Ignatius J. Reilly, a highly educated but lazy and socially inept man who lives with his overbearing mother. Through a series of hilarious misadventures, Ignatius navigates the streets of New Orleans, encountering a colorful cast of characters along the way.

Brief Synopsis

The plot of "A Confederacy of Dunces" revolves around the eccentric character of Ignatius J. Reilly, a 30-year-old man who still lives with his mother in New Orleans. Ignatius is intelligent and highly educated, but his extreme laziness and disdain for the modern world prevent him from finding gainful employment.

The story begins with Ignatius losing his job at a local pants factory due to a series of unfortunate events. Determined to find a new job, Ignatius embarks on a series of misadventures, encountering a diverse range of characters that include his long-suffering mother, a rebellious barmaid, a strip club owner, a police officer, and a gay sailor.

As Ignatius navigates the chaotic streets of New Orleans, he becomes entangled in various absurd situations, including a disastrous protest, a failed attempt at selling hot dogs, and an ill-fated attempt to write a book. Throughout the novel, Ignatius's outlandish behavior and unwavering belief in his own intellectual superiority lead to comedic and often disastrous consequences.

Main Characters


A Confederacy of Dunces FAQ

  1. What is 'A Confederacy of Dunces' about?

    'A Confederacy of Dunces' is a comedic novel set in New Orleans in the 1960s. It tells the story of Ignatius J. Reilly, a socially awkward and eccentric character, as he navigates through various misadventures and encounters with a colorful cast of characters.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Confederacy of Dunces'?

    The author of 'A Confederacy of Dunces' is John Kennedy Toole.

  3. When was 'A Confederacy of Dunces' first published?

    'A Confederacy of Dunces' was first published in 1980, 11 years after the author's death.

  4. Has 'A Confederacy of Dunces' won any awards?

    Yes, 'A Confederacy of Dunces' won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.

  5. What genre does 'A Confederacy of Dunces' belong to?

    'A Confederacy of Dunces' is a satirical and comedic novel.

  6. Is 'A Confederacy of Dunces' suitable for all readers?

    While 'A Confederacy of Dunces' is highly regarded for its humor and wit, it contains adult themes and language. It may not be suitable for all readers.

  7. Are there any sequels or prequels to 'A Confederacy of Dunces'?

    No, 'A Confederacy of Dunces' is a standalone novel and does not have any official sequels or prequels.

  8. Is 'A Confederacy of Dunces' based on a true story?

    No, 'A Confederacy of Dunces' is a work of fiction and not based on a true story.

  9. What is the writing style of 'A Confederacy of Dunces'?

    'A Confederacy of Dunces' is known for its vibrant and descriptive prose, filled with humor, satire, and social commentary.

  10. Is 'A Confederacy of Dunces' suitable for fans of comedy and satire?

    Absolutely! If you enjoy comedic novels with a satirical edge, 'A Confederacy of Dunces' is definitely worth reading.