A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces Summary and Analysis of Chapter 12

The Rally

Dressed in his Paradise Vendors pirate costume and with a speech prepared, Ignatius goes to Dorian Greene's "kick-off rally." As he and Dorian walk down the carriageway, they hear a noise that sounds like someone is being sacrificed. Ignatius throws himself into the door to find Timmy, still adorned in a sailor uniform, who has been shackled and chained to the wall. This seems like a bad sign to Ignatius, and he worries that the "enemy" may be among them.

After releasing Timmy, Ignatius and Dorian finally enter the party. Ignatius finds the place full not with a politically motivated group of activists ready to fight for world peace, but with wild noise and debauchery. He notes that they are probably "going to have a great deal of trouble capturing the conservative rural redneck Calvinist vote." His spirits are somewhat lifted, though, when Dorian says he wants to introduce him to the ladies' auxilliary, and he commends Dorian for his foresight. These spirits soon come crashing back down, however, when he sees that the "ladies' auxilliary" are really three lesbians sitting in the kitchen (the same three who had assaulted Officer Mancuso earlier in the novel). Betty, Liz, and Frieda are at the kitchen table drinking beer. A disagreement breaks out between the women, and soon chairs are raised and the women seem to be on the verge of a riot. Dorian, however, is able to calm the situation, and the women tell Ignatius to scram from the kitchen, which they have now declared as their "territory." As they head back to the other room, Dorian explains that he had to invite them, because otherwise they break in anyway and just cause more trouble.

Impatient, Ignatius decides to take control of the situation. Having learned nothing from his experience in the Levy Pants factory, Ignatius turns off the music and meets a roar of disapproval. He attempts to address the crowd, but he is met with a verbal barrage of insults--they call him "grotesque" and a "beast." The music is turned back on, and Ignatius is ignored by every person in the room (particularly Dorian). This scene recalls nightmarish memories of high school, where he had blown up his experiment in the chemistry lab, burning off his eyebrows and wetting his pants out of fright. Ignatius had walked around the school soggily for the rest of the day, with all of the other students pretending he did not exist. Now the only people acknowledging him were the three lesbian members of the ladies' auxilliary, who had left their kitchen prison. As the ladies tease Ignatius about his exclusion from the party, Timmy the sailor approaches and asks Ignatius to dance. He flatly refuses, and the girls accuse him of being a "troublemaker." Ignatius is forcibly removed from the party. As he leaves the canary yellow house, a man in a silk suit and homburg hat appears to be watching him from the shadows.

Harlett O'Hara

Though the rally was a failure, Ignatius decides he will try to salvage the afternoon by heading to the Night of Joy and attempting a meeting with Miss Harlett O'Hara. As he heads toward the bar, the man in the silk suit comes out of the shadows and follows Ignatius on his path. Arriving at the Night of Joy, Jones tells Ignatius that he is just in time and that Harlett O'Hara will be coming on stage in just a few minutes. Ignatius takes a seat beside the stage, and a Latin B-Girl (apparently Darlene's replacement) asks if he wants something to drink. Ignatius orders a Dr. Nut, but when the woman returns, she is holding champagne and demands that Ignatius pay twenty-four dollars. When Ignatius refuses to pay the tab, she begins yelling. Suddenly, Lana Lee comes onstage to introduce the act, and Ignatius notes that the porter had lied to him about Lee being on vacation in California. When Ignatius sees that Harlett O'Hara is none other than Darlene, it is more than he can take, and he exclaims, "Is this cretin Harlett O'Hara!" Darlene's cockatoo, which was focused on Ignatius' hoop earring since it came onto the stage, responds to Ignatius's bellow by flapping its wings, squawking, and flying directly toward his head. Ignatius leaps up as the bird latches onto his earring. As he beats at the bird wildly, the champagne smashes and tables are overturned. Lana and Darlene watch in horror as the show is ruined, while Jones could not be more delighted--he never expected his sabotage to work this well. Ignatius stumbles out the door, past Jones, right into the path of an approaching bus. He faints, and Jones pulls him out of the bus's path at the last second. As Ignatius lies on the ground unconscious, the man in the silk suit emerges and takes control of the situation, telling everyone to back up and give him some air. Looking at the man in the silk suit, Jones recognizes him as someone he has seen wearing a false beard, as well as someone he saw under a blue cap in the police precinct. The man asks Lana if he can use her phone, and sensing that this man is a "safe one" (perhaps a rich doctor or lawyer), she asks him if he wants to have a little "fun"--and shows him her nude picture, where she is sitting on the desk along with the book, globe, and chalk. The man responds that he is undercover Officer Angelo Mancuso, and she is under arrest for possession of pornography. Just then, the three members of the ladies' auxilliary arrive on the scene.


Santa Battaglia has long been advocating that Mrs. Reilly have Ignatius committed and locked up at the mental ward of Charity Hospital. Mrs. Reilly is slowly being swayed, and she has started to consider it. For the most part, Santa's proposal and Mrs. Reilly's consideration have not been based on a belief that Ignatius is insane but have come from the feeling that he is a nuisance who brings his mother nothing but grief and who is an obstacle to her remarrying Claude Robichaux and living off of his railroad pension. Ever since Ignatius suggested that he is in favor of transforming the United States into a monarchy, however, Mrs. Reilly has been concerned that her son might in fact be crazy. This fear is only compounded when she sees Ignatius leave for Dorian Greene's party/rally dressed as a giant pirate.

Ignatius's behavior at Dorian's house indicates that Mrs. Reilly's concerns that he might be crazy are not entirely unfounded. When Ignatius and Dorian enter the "slave quarters" to investigate the shrieking they heard, Ignatius throws himself into the door, shattering it. But not only was the door not locked, it was not even closed. There does not seem to be any explanation for Ignatius slamming his body into the door. When Ignatius sees Timmy shackled to the wall (the result of a prank by some of the other partygoers), he says wildly, "The enemy is among us...Who tattled? Tell me. Someone is on to us." Thus, it seems that in addition to being oblivious to the fact that this is a party, not a kickoff rally to form a movement to insinuate homosexuals into the government and military, Ignatius is also paranoid. Even after entering the house and seeing all of the revelers dressed in costumes, listening to music, and having a good time, he remains unaware that this is a party, not a planning meeting for an international coup.

After Ignatius attempts to address the party and is shot down by the crowd, we see a flashback to Ignatius's adolescence--to one of the most humiliating experiences of his life. We see that after blowing up an experiment at school, Ignatius suffered the double embarrassment of burning off his eyebrows and wetting his pants out of fright. The reaction of the other children at school was not to sympathize with Ignatius, but rather (like the partygoers at Dorian's house) to pretend Ignatius is invisible and to ignore him. It is difficult to imagine someone as large and odd-looking as Ignatius being "invisible," but it is easy to ignore someone one does not like. This experience clearly was traumatizing for Ignatius and may be related to his symptoms of depression, his choice to remain something of a recluse or at least to feel satisfied poking at society as an outsider, and his turn to self-absorption to the degree that he is oblivious to the reality around him.

With the climactic scene at the Night of Joy, we see that all of the groundwork that Jones has laid to sabotage Lana Lee has finally come together to bring about her ruin. First, he successfully encouraged Lana to let Darlene and her bird perform their strip routine. Then, by snooping around the bar regarding George and the orphans, he forced Lana to alter her delivery schedule, thereby requiring George to look for a place to store the pornography until 3 p.m. each day, which in turn led to Ignatius getting a copy of one of the photographs. Because Jones had written the bar's address on all of the packages, Ignatius ultimately arrives on the Night of Joy's doorstep. When he does show up, Jones is able to convince Ignatius that Harlett O'Hara is the brilliant woman whom Ignatius is searching for, that she will be performing in a few days, and that Lana Lee will be away from the bar (that is, not around to harass Ignatius). As a result of all of this work by Jones, Ignatius arrives on opening night and not only ruins the bird show but also causes damage to the bar, and this chain of events also leads Officer Mancuso to Lana and her pornography. Each actor has made his or her own choices, but Jones has done a wonderful job making their fates turn out in his favor.