One of the most unique and strange relationships in modern literature exists between Ignatius Reilly and Myrna Minkoff, the two perceived dunces in John Kennedy Tooles A Confederacy of Dunces. The correspondence between them runs throughout the novel. In the beginning, Ignatius feels a certain air of superiority over her, yet she feels that he has lost touch with reality, and her suggestion begin to control his actions, as he tries to win at her own game. She genuinely cares for him and writes her opinion of how to transform his life.
In three separate attempts to quiet her unrelenting criticism and suggestions, he heeds her advice, each time failing miserably and causing greater adversity for himself. Yet, at the end of the novel, in a comedic irony, she saves him from mental and physical captivity. At the beginning of the relationship between the reader and the association between Ignatius and Myrna, Ignatius writes an egotistical letter to explain his adventures working at and grand plans for Levy Pants.
Ignatius explains: “I have several excellent ideas already, and I know that I, for one, will eventually make Mr. Levy decide to put his heart and soul in the firm” (pg. 90). In Ignatius’s own fantasy world, he honestly supposes that his changes will cause a revolutionary transformation of Levy Pants. He believes that his innovative contrivances can transform the forgotten Levy Pants into a Fortune 500 company, and he writes to Myrna in an attempt to clarify and reinforce his deranged world view. Reality does not allow for Ignatius’s idealized rebirth of the factory, but Ignatius fails to see the actuality of the situation, and instead writes about his proposed accomplishments at Levy Pants to Myrna.
Myrna? s response to Ignatius’s letter expresses a large degree of anxiety for Ignatius’s well-being. In reply to Igantius’s claims, she writes: “I do not believe a word of what I read. But I am frightened — for you” (pg. 94).. Mryna continues the letter by declaring her commitment to helping society: “my every waking hour is spent in helping some dedicated friends raise money for a bold and shattering movie about interracial marriage” (pg. 95). Myrna feels her movie’s message about prejudice and hate may create enough tension and discussion to significantly change people’s points of view.
Also in the letter, she proposes a cure to Ignatius’s loss of mental stability: “you must commit yourself to the crucial problems of the times” (pg. 94). Myrna’s words provoke Ignatius into following in her own revolutionary footsteps later in the novel. Her correspondence portrays her opinion: Ignatius is a brilliant man losing touch with the world, which only she may be able to prevent. Her letter declares Ignatius insane, later she makes suggestions to cure Ignatius’s breakaway from reality. Ignatius burns Myrnas’s letter, declaring: “I’ll show this offensive trollop” (pg. ).
Myrna’s criticism agitates Ignatius, proving her opinion of him actually matters to him; his general apathy towards people’s opinions does not apply to Myrna. He values her opinion, whether or not he agrees with it. After spending more time at the factory, Ignatius decides to lead a social revolution by the workers against the management, similar to Myrna’s aspirations of social revolt. After brainstorming the idea he, “contemplated a reply to Myrna, a slashing, vicious attack upon her being and worldview.
It would be better to wait until he had visited the factory and seen what possibilities for social action there had been there” (pg. 120). He desires an intellectual duel and contest of social revolution between them to prove his superiority. In his own writings, Ignatius composes that Myrna, “must be dealt with at her own level, and thus I thought of her as I surveyed the sub-standard conditions of the factory” (pg. 149). Myrna’s letter about leading her own social revolt fuels Ignatius’s passion to prove his supremacy, by winning at her own game.