A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

By John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comedian masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole's hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is "huge, overweight, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French zone. His tale bursts with fully unique characters, denizens of latest Orleans' decrease depths, really true-to-life discussion, and the zaniest sequence of low and high comedian adventures" (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times).

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What’s this, my friend? Some law established long ago? Something decreed by custom among the Greeks? talthybius Think of your daughter as happy, free of trouble. hecuba What do you mean, she’s ‘‘happy’’? Is she still alive? talthybius She’s following her fate. Her cares are over. hecuba And the wife of Hector, fierce in arms, Andromache, That poor girl, what befalls her now? With whom? talthybius Achilles’ son has picked her for his prize. 300 hecuba And what of my fate? Whom will I serve, with my gnarled Hand on the stick I cannot walk without?

Hecuba Is it Thebes, dear god, or some Thessalian city? talthybius You’ve each been given to a separate master. 270 hecuba Who is given to whom? And who among us now, Which Trojan woman, will find happiness? talthybius I know, I’ll tell you, but you have to ask The questions one by one, not all at once. hecuba My daughter, my poor girl Cassandra, tell me, then— Who’s taken her? Who’s she been given to? talthybius King Agamemnon picked her for his prize. hecuba A queen’s child—to be a slave to that Spartan queen!

35 When he next returns, he expresses openly his anguish, even shame at the news he bears for Andromache from the beginning: Wife of Hector, once the bravest man In Troy, don’t hate me for what I’ve come to tell you. Against my will, I must announce the common Will of the Greeks (814–17/709–11). There follows a hesitation that requires eight more lines of fraught exchange with Andromache before Talthybius can bring himself to announce that Astyanax is to be killed; as he himself says, ‘‘there’s no easy way to tell the bad news’’ (824/717).

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