A Confederacy of Dunces | Study Guide

John Kennedy Toole

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A Confederacy of Dunces | Chapter 12 | Summary



Ignatius J. Reilly sends Myrna Minkoff a telegram about his plan to infiltrate the military with homosexuals, requesting that she help him by recruiting "Sodomites." He receives an alarmed response from Myrna and is delighted to think that has gotten a rise out of her. Myrna admits her lecture was not a success and her Kenyan lover has disappeared. She is extremely worried about Ignatius and asks him to call her.

Ignatius goes to join Dorian Greene at the bizarre party Greene has organized as the kick-off rally for Ignatius's plan. Dorian Greene and Ignatius hear a cry for help and find Timmy chained to a wall. Greene becomes upset when he discovers they have broken a door, and the bickering upsets Ignatius and his desire to start a movement for peace. They go inside the party, which is boisterous and crowded. Ignatius cuts off the music at the party and begins his speech. He is greeted with anger and heckles from a confused crowd. Greene becomes upset and screams at Ignatius to leave.

Ignatius wonders what to tell Myrna about the movement for peace and feels like he has repeated the mistakes made with the Crusade for Moorish Dignity. He decides to go to Night of Joy to watch Darlene do her act as "Harlett O'Hara." The show begins with an introduction by Lana Lee. Darlene arrives onstage with her bird, who flies off stage toward Ignatius's earring. Ignatius is yelled at by Lana, Darlene, and the bartender he owes money to. He runs outside and faints in front of a bus, but he is saved by Burma Jones. A man in a silk suit, who has followed Ignatius, emerges from a dark corner. He asks Lana to call an ambulance. Lana looks at the man and thinks he must be rich and flashes him a glimpse of the pornographic photo in the hopes of making a profitable sale. The man reveals that he is an undercover officer. It is Patrolman Angelo Mancuso, who arrests Lana for soliciting and possession of pornography.


The fact that the kick-off rally organized by Dorian Greene is an overwhelming disaster is no surprise at all, except, of course, to Ignatius. The strange, carnivalesque, and slightly deranged atmosphere of the rally-party is a kind of theatricalized staging of the various character types of the people in the story. The odd house, with its "slave quarters" reinforces the novel's Southern themes and the implicit criticism of the South. Ignatius's attempts to form a coalition are undermined by his typical inability to understand the interests and feelings of others. Ignatius has not learned from his previous mistakes and continues to act based on ego. He assumes that because he classifies homosexuals as vagrants, they will want to join his movement. This echoes the mistakes he made during the failed protest at the factory. Ignatius's lack of real understanding of and empathy for marginalized groups dooms him to failure. In a larger sense, Ignatius and his failures function as a critique of political and social movements.

Lana's arrest is a brief flash of justice in the novel. Jones's plans for sabotaging her—helped along by a few twists of fate—finally come to fruition. Mancuso finally makes an arrest, meaning that he will not be fired. The scene is a rare moment where some of the characters more or less get what they deserve.

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