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"a Confederacy of Dunces" -- Marxism

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Essay title: "a Confederacy of Dunces" -- Marxism

"A Confederacy of Dunces" -- Marxism

Statistics: in 2005, men with only a high school diploma averaged $10.93, yet women took in $9.08. Male college graduates averaged $19.72, and females, $17.08. Non-college employment rates were 75%, whereas college graduates averaged 85%. Health insurance coverage was 33% compared to 64%, respectively. In all cases, income increased with age. Why is this important? Well, many factors can be taken in to determine social class, and there is a large grey area between the bourgeoisie and proletariat that I personally feel most of society lives. A true Marxist can view age, income, sex, education, or even personal characteristics as criteria to determine social class. Each factor plays an important role in a person’s lifestyle, thus parallels a Marxist view on society. Moreover, through the dynamic portrayal of a vast array of characters, A Confederacy of Dunces shows Marxism in a variety of fashions that can be interpreted and analyzed.

Age. We, as a society, view age as a degree of knowledge. In most sense, it is rightfully justified. As we get older, we encounter more and can obtain wisdom from those experiences. But, if we further our analysis, we can see that with age an amount of respect is also implemented. Therefore, we can classify older citizens as a “special” class of society, most being considered that of the upper class. If we compare young George to any other major character in the story, we see that he is considered lower than them. He sneaks around and gets by, but he is at the mercy of his counterparts. In George’s plea to the great Ignatius in chapter 11 for a safe hiding for his special pictures, he states, “Give that back”. Ignatius’ replied, “This one is mine”, as he takes it upon himself to take one of George’s pictures. It could be said that Ignatius is much bigger and could use brute force, but he never handles or intimidates George. He assumes that because he is older and wiser, he has the right to do what he wants when he wants. This example shows a social layer, separating classes to degrees on age.

Income. In true classical Marxism, the definition of class is primarily divided on income levels (but we, outside of our boxes know it can be much more complex). The “haves”, the bourgeoisie, and the “have-nots”, the proletariat, are our prime divide. This is a great place to start our divide, but it must be noted that the divide is subdivided further. We encounter a large grey area in today’s society, the middle class, where most people function on a day-to-day basis. Most of society falls into a category from their parents and social conditioning as a child. Regardless, Marxism is that reality is not social but material. Social groups are the basis of living, and we live our lives striving to advance and/or maintain our class. Toole takes an interesting approach in A Confederacy of Dunces. Most of the characters we encounter are of the lower, proletariat class. The Levy’s are our ideal contrast. Owning their own company and controlling the role of many employees (through income) gives them an upper hand. Furthermore, since their income is so high, they receive a degree of respect from their peers (whether they are lazy or ignorant). Another example is Ignatius and Mr. Clyde. Obviously, it is implied that Mr. Clyde has more income (though not much) than Ignatius, owning his own vending business. This owning is key in society. The “haves” have the businesses and the “have-nots” work for them. Thus, Mr. Clyde has the advantage to tell Ignatius what to do, like wear a silly pirate costume around the Quarter while working. Again, power and intelligence do not really come easy to Mr. Clyde, but he has the upper hand because he is the owner. He has the money.

Sex. Sex has always been a major controversy in our society. We, being a country of equal rights, still do not incorporate women in the same class as men. We have never had a female president. Most of the Fortune 500 companies are empowered by men. Women are just now, in the last ten to fifteen years coming out of the “housewife” shadow. With upper hand in a man-woman relationship, the man can maintain a social barrier of control. The key of “having” for the man and “not having” for the woman shows a Marxist design in our everyday variety from the poor to the rich. Our sex example in A Confederacy of Dunces is between Claude and Mrs. Reilly. Obviously, Mrs. Reilly would know her son much better than Claude, considering he is a new encounter in their lives. Yet, he has a great impact on her view on Ignatius. Claude’s overwhelming persuasion on Mrs. Reilly drives her to take his word over her son’s. In the final chapter, we see that Mrs. Reilly is so overwhelmed with Claude’s views on communism and her son’s terrible problems that she wants to send him to a hospital

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