Wars and Windmills

05 November 2009

From Boethius to Batman: The Wisdom of Ignatius J. Reilly

I am feeling some love today for one of my favorite books: A Confederacy of Dunces. This book made me laugh out loud on many occasions, mostly from the oddities of the main character Ignatius J. Reilly.

If you haven't read this book, a brief character analysis may be in order. In his foreword to the book, Walker Percy describes Ignatius as a "slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one". Ignatius has a general disdain for modernity, particularly pop culture; this disdain becomes a bit of an obsession, and, as obsessions can do, hinders him from living what may be deemed as a socially acceptable existence. One of the best examples of this disdain is his continual desire to attend the movies, even though he hates them. He goes, not to be entertained, but in order to mock their "perversity" and express his outrage with the contemporary world's lack of "theology and geometry".

However, sometimes Ignatius' disdain is tempered. One particularly absurd passage really stuck with me, as the beloved anti-hero tries to set his acquaintance Dorian Greene on the right path. How? By reading Roman philosophy and comics.

From Chapter 10:

“I suspect that beneath your offensively and vulgarly effeminate facade there may be a soul of sorts. Have you read widely in Boethius?”

“Who? Oh, heavens no. I never even read newspapers.”

“Then you must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age,” Ignatius said solemnly. “Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books.”

“You’re fantastic.”

“I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he’s found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman.”

Ignatius may be a gargantuan, green-capped, lumberjack-shirted vortex of hypochondria, misanthropy, contempt, intellectual precocity, and intestinal problems, but he knows his comics.


  1. Batman is always the best. I think most comics could benefit from Batman showing up. That goes for movies and TV shows as well. He would be great on LOST.

  2. Batman is on Lost. Most people can only see the trail of black smoke he leaves, but he is there, kicking ass.

  3. You only see that trail of smoke because he allowed it. Consider yourself lucky.

  4. i need your address, sir, one that would be appropriate to send a christmas card to. email it to me?