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Invisible Man Essay

invisible man essay

Example #1

The novel, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, explores the issue of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through the main character. In the novel, Invisible Man, the main character is not giving a name. In our paper, we will refer to him as the Protagonist. Ellison explores how unalienable rights cannot be obtained without freedom from the obstacles in life, especially from one’s own fears. In the novel Invisible Man, several major characters affect the Protagonist. One of the major characters is Dr. Bledsoe, who is the president of the school. Dr. Bledsoe had a major effect on the main character because the Protagonist idolizes him. “He was everything that I hope to be,” (Ellison 99), but Dr. Bledsoe degrades him when we say “Why the dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie” (Emerson 137) and calls him a Nigger.

In addition, the Protagonist’s grandfather had a major effect on him. The! The protagonist’s grandfather’s last word, “Live in Lion’s mouth” (Ellison 16) has a lasting effect on him throughout most of the novel. Finally and most important, Ras the Destroyer, whom the Protagonist fears whom along with Dr. Bledsoe in a separate encountering calls him “an educated fool” (Ellison 140). The first encounter of the Protagonist’s own fears is introduced when his grandfather tells the Protagonist to go against the white man by “overcome ‘em with yeses” (Emerson 16). These words haunt the Protagonist when he is kicked out getting kicked out of college. When Dr. Bledsoe kicks him out of college, the Protagonist reflects on his grandfather’s last words “undermine ‘em with grins, agree on ‘em to death^”(Emerson 16). For a moment, the Protagonist wonders if his grandfather might be right.

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However, due to the Protagonist’s fear of failure, the Protagonist doubts his grandfather’s wise words, because he does not want to believe that his role in life is to undermine the white man. So, the Protagonist convinces himself that Dr. Bledsoe and the school is right and goes to New York. The second encounter, in which the Protagonist reveals his fear and not being accepted, is in the Battle Royal. The Battle Royal is a boxing match involving nine other African American boys who have to fight until the last man is standing. The protagonist endures this degrading act as a ploy so that he can be able to read his speech, in the hope of impressing the elite white men of the town. The Protagonist’s fear of not being looked upon as uneducated causes him to be the subject of a brutal beating, which knocks him out and torturous electrical shocking.

In addition, the Protagonist’s fear of not being accepted is his denial of being a “Negro”. The Protagonist’s encounter with Dr. Bledsoe exemplifies his denial. The Protagonist looks up to Dr. Bledsoe as a model of what he wants to be. However, when Dr. Bledsoe called the Protagonist an “educated fool” (Ellison 140) and an Nigger; the Protagonist ignores it because of his denial of being a Nigger, but under normal circumstances, a person would get angry and upset. Dr. Bledsoe’s name is also a play on the word because when he calls the Protagonist a Nigger, he bleeds his people so. Dr. Bledsoe’s bleeding off the Protagonist shows his disregard for his own people. The Protagonist’s fears of not being accepted are also evident when he continues to believe that he would get back into the college even after getting kicked out. The third situation that the Protagonist encounters is with Ras the Destroyer.

Ras character is one of the total opposites of the Protagonist. Ras’s goal is the destruction of the white man. As the Protagonist, enter a brotherhood of both white and black people, he finds himself at odds with Ras, who refuses to have a brotherhood with white people. Although the protagonist is able to avoid any real conflicts with Ras, he is called an “educated fool” (Ellison 292) once again this time by Ras, when the Protagonist comes to the aid of his friend Clifton. The Protagonist holds his education in high esteem and is in a complete state of shock, by being called an “educated fool” once again. However, the greatest impact that Ras has on the Protagonist is at the end of the Novel. This occurs when the Protagonist is attacked by Ras. The Protagonist calls out that “They want this to happen”. The Protagonist refers to this statement to the brotherhood, which is not a brotherhood at all!

But it is too late. Ras is intent on killing the Protagonist. When the Protagonist finally escapes, the Protagonist is desperate and wants to hide. In the end, this leads him to a hole where the Protagonist feels that he is invisible, which we find in the beginning. To conclude, the Protagonist realized that even being underground away from society, his mind would not let him rest. He states that “I’m an invisible man and it placed me in a hole- or showed me the hole I was in^.”(Ellison Epilogue). This is an effective metaphor because that is where life left him. As stated by a German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, “A snake that does not shed its skin will perish”. The Protagonist realized he must shed his metaphorical skin of fear and denial of being a Negro in order to obtain his unalienable which are rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom he obtains through shedding his skin is that he knows he is free to be himself without fearing not being accepted.


Example #2

Ralph Ellison speaks of a man who is “invisible” to the world around him because people fail to acknowledge his presence. The author of the piece draws from his own experience as an ignored man and creates a character that depicts the extreme characteristics of a man whom few stop to acknowledge. Ellison persuades his audience to sympathize with this violent man through the use of rhetorical appeal. Ethos and pathos are dominant in Ellison’s writing style. His audience is barely aware of the gentle encouragement calling them to focus on the “invisible” individuals around us.

While Ellison rises above his obstacles to critical acclaim and success, the Invisible Man resorts to violent acts and isolationism. Ellison dramatizes the outcast and the actions extreme isolationists are capable of carrying out. Ralph Ellison raises a significant question regarding one’s identity: To what lengths will one go to in order to gain respect from the rest of the world? Ellison concludes that an invisible man has the potential to become malevolent when his narrator states that: “You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you.

And, alas, it’s seldom successful.” (145-46) His essay targets any individual who may consider themselves an outcast in one way or another. Ellison’s use of ethos is unique in this story because it has little to do with him, but rather his narrator. The entire story focuses on the “Invisible Man.”The narrator claims authority over Ellison’s theme of identity because he himself is an invisible man. Although the story is fictional, the character holds just as much personality as a real individual. The invisible man resides in his own world because he feels that no one can relate to his situation.


Example #3

In Ralph Ellison’s novel The Invisible Man, the protagonist narrates in the first person about his invisibility. He, as he refers to himself without considering his person a subject while being a real person, is made «of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids».1 He describes how people around are looking through him. The problem is not with their physical eyes, meaning it is not something that does not allow them to perceive physically. Only a few pages later, readers randomly find out that the narrator is spoken as being black. The rest who look through him are characterized as white. In this way, the unexpected flow of expressively violent scenes pours light on an exceptionally sophisticated form of racist unification against which the protagonist will act.

It is not a fact of physical absence but the social non-existence of an individual. To the question about his invisibility, the narrator replies that the nature of the vision of those who look through him has to be held responsible for this. This is not a flaw in their physical vision and actual inability to perceive, but it is an internal prejudice that does not allow them to understand it the right way. The duality of the conflict between the main character and the world surrounding him is gradually unfolded with every step of the development of the book. Thus, with the sharp and aggressive sentences of the first-person narration, this prologue opens the story.

The script is characterized by several particularly sophisticated forms of discrimination and humiliation against which the protagonist will fight throughout the novel. It takes a form of invisibility, namely, the suppression of the personality, which, obviously, deals not with physical absence, but with non-existence in a social sense. The demonstration of the latter explains why this story has such an importance for American and world culture.

The story begins with the narrator’s reminiscence of his past life. He tells readers how he dreamed of becoming a renowned educator and orator. However, readers are quickly shown how the system is going to treat the narrator’s dreams as the humiliating procedure of receiving a scholarship to a specially designated state college is described in detail. The narrator then experiences a plethora of situations where he is disregarded, disrespected, and mistreated because of the color of his skin. He gets expelled from the college and goes North, where he eventually finds out that what he considered exceptional freedom turns out to be the same he saw in the South.

The author goes as far as putting the narrator through experiencing the consequences of explosion and being subjected to medical experiments by White doctors. This is acknowledged when the narrator gives an introspection of his life as being “based upon the fallacious assumption that I, like other men, was visible”, referring to his past worldview.2 Further life makes the narrator more and more disenfranchised and disillusioned about the social situation of his race.

However, despite the numerous misfortunes of his life, including being chased into a manhole by a furious mob, the narrator finds a way to ease his hatred and emotional pain. To do so, he uses writing, and as he entrusts the paper with the story of his path, he feels that life is still worthy of living. Thus, the man rediscovers the fact that he loves living no matter what. The latter is an example of an excellent new way of perceiving life that is not based on superficial ideas of others, judgment, and prejudice.

Themes and Characters. The theme of racial injustice is the most vividly expressed theme of the entire book. The author shows how deeply it has rooted in the fabric of society. The perceived social invisibility of the protagonist is representative of the racial practices imposed on the African American community that are described by the author in his novel. The writer pictures the situation brightly and with striking accuracy because he was a witness of it during his lifetime. While it is obvious that social traditions such as segregation, discrimination, and similar are racist and, thus, absolutely unacceptable, the more important theme of the novel is not the description of the racial situation in the United States.

The topic of greater importance for the readers of all times and nations is the theme of one man’s journey to discovering self-identity. The main character serves the purpose of expressing that idea explicitly. In relation to this, the scene of the expulsion of the narrator from college has great importance as it functions as one of the most powerful triggers that move the character to step on a path of realization, which stems from the inability to understand southern mores. The return of the narrator from the White culture to the cultural roots of his folk represents the evolution of his conscientiousness. This is the act of self-liberation of his true identity from the oppressive influence of the dominant racial discourse. As the character sets him free, Ellison here pushes the theme of Black identity in American literature, which strongly influenced future writers in their attempts to resolve this issue.

Opinion. In my opinion, Ellison’s warning to readers about the necessity of moderation, as it is depicted in the scenes of unrest in Harlem, was the most important idea. Despite the injustices, it is always crucial to stay away from violence or resentment and dedicate the efforts to something more productive. The latter I consider to be the second most valuable thought I derived from reading this book as it can be given to a person of any generation. If the piece of literature is capable of being useful through time, then it can be concluded that it is truly an art and is worthy of being a part of humanity’s cultural heritage.

Conclusion. The Invisible Man is one of the most powerful writings on the topics of racial justice ever written by any American writer. Its value is even greater as it provides readers with a valuable lesson on discovering one’s true identity and setting oneself free of the influence of the dominant culture. This idea is essential for modern culture as more and more people suffer from being unable to discover their true selves. Finding and establishing a meaningful connection with the cultural heritage of one’s people is presented by the author to be one of the ways to do so.


Example #4

In “Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison, one central question that arises and is evident throughout the novel is “who am I?” The main character is searching for his identity while fighting through racial bias and discrimination. The narrator, who is not valued enough to be named, struggles for his individualism and identity. In a world that is dominated by whites, the narrator is categorized by his skin color, his education as well as his membership in the Brotherhood.

Ellison shows that the narrator is discriminated against because of his skin color. The black coloring of the narrator’s skin is what covers his individuality; entrapping him behind a mask. The narrator uses the mask as a protective form of self-defense and resistance to the white-dominated world. The narrator’s skin color has stifled his individual complexity and his ability to contribute to society. Ultimately, he is not viewed as an individual but someone who is the same as all others sharing black skin coloring. In the prologue, the narrator reinforces his frustration saying, “I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination-indeed, everything and anything except me.

The narrator has been in search of himself but never found it” (Ellison, p. 3). In “Invisible Man,” skin color creates a divided society. Dr. Bledsoe scolded the narrator for taking Mr. Norton around blacks implying that he should have known better than to mix with “those” kind of people. Being called “nigger” as he walks freely also illustrates how the narrator was only free to be a man associated with others who shared the same skin color, not white people. Throughout the story, the narrator is constantly reminded of his grandfather’s lasting words and the importance to become compliant with the racism of the world.


Example #5

This quote from Invisible Man is passionately expressed by Dr. Bledsoe, the black president of the college that the narrator attends, as a result of the narrator showing Mr. Norton, a white trustee of the college, unpleasant areas of the campus that should have remained hidden from Mr. Norton’s knowledge. When first introduced, Dr. Bledsoe is described as a figure that the narrator holds in high esteem, for the narrator sees that Bledsoe has established himself in a prominent position and at the top of the black community. However, the narrator soon learns that Bledsoe’s passion for black education and care for the black community is all a fa?§ade masking his impure intentions of doing what he must do to remain in a position of power. The narrator comes to this realization once Dr. Bledsoe reveals his true sentiments in the quote above.

In the first part of the quote, Bledsoe describes what power means to him. He describes power as a self-established entity whose magnitude one can only understand once they are in possession of it. Through listing what power is, Bledsoe establishes that power comes in many forms and can appear differently to everyone. More specifically, he means that the perspective in which the blacks view his power and how the whites view his power is different, but despite how his power may appear to either group of people, it is still power and gives him authority. This statement develops Bledsoe’s character as only being concerned with his position in society and doing whatever he can to maintain it.

The last part of the quote is equally, if not more, important as the first part of the quote in exposing Bledsoe’s true character as the malicious comment he makes about lynching blacks if it means keeping his position is truly shocking. This comment is evidence of racism against one’s own race; Bledsoe, being a black man, is unafraid to kill his own people in order to maintain his power. It is here that the narrator realizes Bledsoe is corrupted by institutional racism and is not at all what the narrator and most likely another folk in the black community thought he was as this great statesmen and educator who is concerned with the advancement of blacks in society, leaving the narrator feeling betrayed. Major themes of the novel are explored through this declaration of obsession with power and self-interest.

The power of ambition reveals itself as a dangerous weapon used by Bledsoe, and by many other characters throughout the novel, to feed on the racism that is so prevalent in this society. By satisfying the role of a stereotypical black man and acting subservient to the white trustees, Bledsoe deceives them into letting him keep his position as president as well as continuing to donate money to the college, which he can exploit and continue to use as a means of power. He believes that by being subordinate to the whites and admitting that whites are still higher in society than blacks, he can manipulate how the trustees view him and the college and therefore control what they think and do. However, Bledsoe is also saying that his power is completely dependent on the white trustees and that he would be no one without their affirmation of his position, showing that he is controlled by the trustees and in the bigger picture, whites still dominate blacks in any case, especially when it concerns power.

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Ultimately, Dr. Bledsoe’s deception of the white trustees represents the power struggle between white people and black people in society. Since the invisible man can’t believe someone he had always admired and respected to act in this way, Bledsoe’s uncovered true character further contributes to the invisible man’s struggle to understand how others want him to behave and thus impedes the invisible man’s journey in realizing his own individuality, the central theme of the novel. Throughout the different people he meets and environments he finds himself in, he constantly struggles to find his individual identity and this encounter with Bledsoe only catalyzes his realization that institutional racism has corrupted everyone and everything.


Example #6

While walking the streets of New York City, the narrator comes into contact with a yam vendor. As the sweet scent of yams reaches the Invisible Man’s nose, they “[brought] a stab of swift nostalgia.” This wonderful smell takes the narrator back to a time when he was young and with his loved ones. The Invisible Man remembers the innocence of youth, as he and his classmates snuck yams into their class. At this thought, the narrator purchased a yam, and as he devoured it, a “surge of homesickness that [he] turned away to keep [his] control.” Ellison uses the yam to symbolize the South, the home that the narrator once knew and loved. These memories all led back to one person who had a tremendous affect on the IM’s life – Dr. Bledsoe. As the narrator finished the remaining yams, he dreams of confronting Dr. Bledose and calling him a “shameless chitterling eater.”

Thinking of everything that had happened in his life, the narrator was filled with anger. This anger prompted him to laugh as he continued ridiculing Dr. Bledsoe. He began to realize that he did not care about what the docotro thought, in fact, he did not care about eating in front of other people, even if it was something that was a typical African American meal. These new thoughts brought with them a new intese feeling of freedom. The narrator begins to believe in a new philosophy, “I yam what I am.” He begins to become proud of his heritage as well as everything that represents his culture. The narrator’s awakening is complete, he has finally accepted who he truely is and is proud of his heritage. As one delves into the content of this eating scene, it is easily seen how it relates to Ellison’s entire novel. The yam scene threads Ellison’s main theme throughout the book. Earlier in the novel, a waiter asked the narrator if he would want the special which included grits and pork chops, a typical southern food.


Example #7

Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” as told by the “invisible man” himself, is the story of a man’s quest to separate his beliefs and values from those being pressed upon him. The narrator never gives his name in the story, which is shown later to have great significance. The narrator is a well-educated black man who has been kicked out of his college and lied to by the school officials. While wandering around Harlem searching for some sort of closure, he encounters a black couple, unjustly evicted from their home. A crowd has gathered, also upset by the injustice, and seems to be ready to riot. Instead, the narrator speaks to them, and they rush the house systematically. This is his first true display of independent thinking and action in the story.

He speaks his honest feelings to a crowd and is backed by them. The narrator’s actions, however, don’t remain so uninhibited throughout the story. The narrator is later approached by a representative of a group called the Brotherhood, who wish for the narrator to join them as a black leader. In the beginning, his ideas are respected, but in time his superiors order him to follow their instructions, placing aside his own ideas and feelings. For a while, the narrator regresses from his independence, simply content following orders. He comes to realize, however, that he is being stifled by the Brotherhood, desiring free action once again. The narrators will suddenly conflict with the will of the Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood essentially wants to act more pacifistically, taking a less dangerous approach to the raging will of the black people. Rather than rectifying the changed Brotherhood, the narrator decides to sabotage it from the inside. His actions doing this once again represent those of a strong-willed individual, rather than his previous conformist following. The effect on the Brotherhood is shown when many of their members begin to leave, empowered now to stand against the corrupted Brotherhood. The end result is a huge riot in the streets of Harlem, between different affiliations, races, and communities.

The narrator, along with his briefcase containing items of his past, is chased into a sewer during the riot. He looks through his items and realizes he has been deceived and made some poor choices in the past. He burns the items, saying goodbye to his past and embracing a new desire to understand himself, as well as his place in the world. In the story’s most important line, “I’m an invisible man and it placed me in a hole- or showed me the hole I was in…,” the narrator realizes that none of the people he encountered ever even asked his name. This is because they were much more concerned with themselves, and how he fit into their master plans of self-bettering. The “invisible man” has been hurt horribly but refuses to lose a life. Instead, he embraces it with both love and hatred. He understands that he has spent his life justifying the desires of others. His realizations at the story’s end set him free from the societal standards and values, allowing him to emerge victor against the world. The “invisible man” is finally visible, even if only to himself.


Example #8

A significant and memorable scene that occurs in this book is when the invisible man is working for Mr. Kimbro at Liberty Paints. For the invisible man’s first real job in the north, he is told to add dope to a black substance to make it white. Throughout the narration of this scene, it is painfully clear the depiction of both the invisible man’s and black race s struggle in this society. Right before the invisible man is introduced to Mr. Kimbro the office boy states that people around the factory call him the Colonel, which sets the tone for how Mr. Kimbro is going to run the operation. To further show how the office boy feels about Mr. Kimbro he calls him a slave driver when he is leaving, an obvious statement of how Mr. Kimbro works his people.

When Mr. Kimbro is telling the invisible man what to do he tells him explicitly to follow instructions and do exactly what I tell you (199). Between what the office boy has said about Mr. Kimbro and how Mr. Kimbro is acting towards the invisible man, the invisible man must feel like he has been just thrown back into the racist southern states. This in turn must be confusing for him because he came to New York to get away from the stereotypical white man who is telling blacks what to do. And nowhere is a white man doing the exact thing that he has been trying to get away from. To further reinforce the reader’s view of how the invisible man is feeling he calls Mr. Kimbro a flunkey, a northern redneck, a Yankee cracker! (201). This shows the audience that the invisible man is disturbed by his boss and wants to know where a black man can be treated equally.

Mr. Kimbro does represent racism in the north, but the paint shows even more clearly the problem of the black in American society. When the invisible man shows how to make the paint he first observes that Mr. Kimbro stirred a milky brown substance and after a short stirring period the paint became glossy white (199). I believe this shows that society is a mix of many colors of people and therefore has a black completion to it. But if that society is mixed up the cream of the crop, whites, will rise to the top of the mixture.

Next Mr. Kimbro shows him that he has to add ten drops of dope to make the mixture even whiter. However, this confuses the invisible man because inside the white graduate the liquid was dead black. In this scene, I believe that the white society is shown as the graduate and blacks as the paint. Thus the dope, blacks, are used to make the mixture, society, better. Meaning, that in society the blacks were used as laborers to make the country look better. But because the American society, government, ambassadors, ext are represented by white men, the blacks working hard is making the whites look better. To further reinforce this point, Ellison chooses to graduate to be the color white. This is because the graduate holds the black dope together and thus shows the whites holding the blacks together.

Furthermore, the graduate(whites) are responsible for adding blacks were ever they feel works needs to be done. After the invisible man has been working for a while he runs out of the dope mixture and has to get more, but instead of getting the dope, he used previously he accidentally gets concentrated remover. However, initially, the invisible man is unaware of this and keeps working and mixing the paint. Through the process, the invisible man noticed that the pigment and heavy oils came free of the bottom much quicker (202). I believe this is supposed to show that if blacks and minorities are giving the opportunity they will rise up in American culture. The heavy oils are blacks who are tired of being lower class citizens at the bottom and are moving up to get noticed by others.

When the invisible man checks his works, he is surprised to find that the paint is not an Optic white but instead a sticky goo through which I could see the grain of the wood, and it had a gray tinge to it. This is supposed to represent the changing of the American culture. The gray paint is a more accurate description of America because it takes into account whites, blacks, and all other minority groups. Also, the white paint was shown to cover anything. But this new paint is more translucent. Which I believe means that historically whites have thought that they could cover up any of their problems in the past, such as slavery. But this new paint allows someone to through it and see its grain. Meaning that society can correctly see its past history and not the one that whites were trying to show us.

Also, this scene is supposed to show that this change can be seen as something positive instead of negative. This is because Kimbro, white society, does not decide to take the gray mixtures off the truck that is headed for national monuments. I believe this illustrates that whites subconsciously realize that they need to acknowledge everyone regardless of their skin color and should display it proudly. The smartness of this scene and more broadly the book is its ability to exist on many levels. Ellison being able to portray the issue of race and inequality through a simple paint factory is remarkable, and for this reason, this has been the most interesting and enjoyable work they we have read so far this semester.


Example #9

Dolls. We are surrounded by dolls. G. I. Joe, Barbie, Polly Pocket, and WWF action figures. Prior to our plasticene friends, we had paper dolls, marionettes, and delicately featured porcelain dolls. We are strangely fascinated by these cold, lifeless objects that look so much like ourselves. Children clutch them and create elaborate scenes, while adults are content to simply collect, allowing them to sit, motionless on a shelf, staring coolly back at their live counterparts. This brings us to an interesting point, are people simply dolls for other people to play with or collect?

One could make the argument that we are all Tod Cliftons’, doomed to dance by invisible strings while wearing a mask of individualism. However, unlike Tod Clifton, most of us will not realize that who pulls the string, is not ourselves. Ralph Ellison’s novel, The Invisible Man is fraught with images of dolls as if to constantly reminded the reader that no one is in complete control of themselves. Our first example of doll imagery comes very early in the novel with the Battle Royal scene. The nude, blonde woman is described as having hair “that was yellow like that of a circus kewpie doll” (19). Ellison draws a very strong connection between the plight of the Negro man and the white woman. The fact that they are both shown as puppets or dolls in the work is no coincidence. The woman and the African are merely shown pieces for the white men in the novel.

Tod Clifton’s dancing Sambo dolls are the most striking example of doll imagery. This small tissue paper doll has the capability to completely change the Invisible Man. When he sees that the powerful and enigmatic Clifton is the one hawking the abominable dolls, the narrator is so filled with humiliation and rage that he spits upon the dancing figure. But what is it that has caused this surging of fury? It is Tod Clifton and not the narrator who has degraded himself to such a base level. However, it is our narrator’s sudden comprehension of his own situation that causes his wrath. The line “For a second our eyes met and he gave me a contemptuous smile” (433) illustrates this moment of realization for our narrator. It shows the reader that Tod Clifton was aware of his position as a puppet all along and chooses to enlighten the narrator at this particular point in the novel.

The Invisible Man recognizes that all his life he’s been a slave and a puppet to others. Whether those others were Bledsoe, his grandfather, or the brotherhood is irrelevant, but there has always been an imperceptible string attached to him governing everything he does. Not only a string but his own physical characteristics echo those of the grotesque Sambo dolls. It’s cardboard hands were clenched into fists. The fingers outlined in orange paint, and I noticed that it had two faces, one on either side of the disks of cardboard, and both grinning. (446) Hands doubled into fists? This is the brotherhood message, in a nutshell, Strong, ready to fight for what one supposedly believes in.

Yet, at the same time, these fists are controlled exclusively by the one holding the strings. And the black Sambo puppet blissfully unaware that he is merely a plaything. He smiles at the crowd and back to the puppeteer. It is the grin on the face of this doll that initially angers the Invisible Man. But why? Thinking back to the very start of the novel we have the Grandfather’s dying words to our narrator, “…overcome ‘em with yesses, undermine ‘em with grins, agree on ‘em to death and destruction…” (16). It would seem as though the Grandfather and Tod Clifton are in league with one another as they both have a firm grasp on what power men have over men. We get a powerful and disturbing image of this very idea when the Invisible Man is in the factory hospital after the explosion. It is a scene that seems to fade into the mishmash of confusion that accompanies this part of the novel, but it is nonetheless very important. As the narrator lies in his glass-enclosed box with wires and electrodes attached all over his body, he is subjected to shock treatment.

“Look, he’s dancing,” someone called.

“No, really?”

…” They really do have rhythm, don’t they? Get hot, boy! Get hot!” it said with a laugh. (237)

This image is almost a perfect match with that of Clifton’s dancing Sambo doll. The only thing missing is the huge grin and even that is taken care of with the line, “My teeth chattered” (237) giving us the picture of a grotesque and pained smile. He experiences a burst of anger which I can only assume means that he catches a glimpse of the strings that he is being pulled by and is helpless to do anything about it. Our final encounter with a doll occurs again with Clifton’s dancing Sambo. At the end of the narrative, while escaping the hell of the Harlem riots, the Invisible Man stumbles upon an open manhole and the gloom below.

While trying to keep warm and get a good look at the place he is, he begins to burn the various objects in his briefcase. When he comes to the flimsy tissue-paper doll he finds that it will not burn. He remarks “it burned so stubbornly that I reached inside the case for something else.” (568) The doll’s difficulty in burning is symbolic of the fact that we, as men, will never fully be able to break free from our puppet-like imprisonment. Ellison’s narrator can be found in each and every human being. We live our lives attempting to be independent and free-thinking individuals, but there will always be the strings that bind us to someone who controls our destiny. Even the Invisible Man has his turn at being a puppeteer, as we all do, with Mr. Norton at the train station when he calmly states, “I’m your destiny.” (578) Do we know who we control? Do we know who controls us? The answer the Invisible Man might give: Maybe.


Example #10 – The Meaning of Being Invisible

Racial discrimination represents an issue that damages the foundation of any civilized society – it turns people against each other and has no basis except ignorance and thirst for power. Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” approaches this problem through the eyes of a young black man, at the beginning of the twentieth century in America, an invisible entity without a voice in a divided society, in which political decisions are made by the white people in power. The main character is appropriately given no name, being an epitome of all black people in America. After the Civil War and the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, African-Americans were officially freed from slavery, and during the reconstruction period which followed, they gained more influence in political and social circles.

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Nonetheless, the following years brought drastic changes due to the implementation of certain laws which took away many of their rights. The Invisible Man, as all black people in America, felt the outcome of these laws – although they were supposed to be equal to white people, they were not allowed to use the same facilities as them or to attend the same educational institutions, they were prevented from gathering political or social influence and they were constantly disregarded by the upper class. On the whole, they were seen as unimportant and less than human by their white counterparts. This situation is presented in Ralph Ellison’s book through the metaphor of invisibility, which refers to the irrelevance of African-Americans in a society dominated by whites.

The Invisible Man’s not being named is representative of his lack of recognition as an individual in society. Having a name would mean having an identity, a distinct and unique personality, but his being stripped of something so common emphasizes the protagonist’s state of translucence in a world to which he does not matter. Invisibility is not a physical problem, but it is rather the way the others see him. Therefore, it is closely related to blindness, which “is the state of those who refuse them as individual beings [and] these conditions are complementary.” (Lopez Miralles 3) Blindness is not a disease of the body, but a malady of the mind, a problem of the “inner eyes” (Ellison 3). Ignorance and prejudice are, in the end, just matters of convenience to those from the upper layer of society, who are too afraid to lose or even share power, as the narrator noticed: “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” (Ellison 3) Consequently, reinforcing racial stereotypes would only strengthen the foundation of their power, at the cost of a divided society.

This discrimination is injurious for both races since it only turns them against each other. Refusing to acknowledge the equality between the two can only lead to resentment from the discriminated part, often degenerating into violence. The confrontation in the street between the Invisible Man and the white man, after accidentally bumping into each other illustrates the lack of balance between what was expected of black people and what they were given in return. The laws would have made it impossible for a black person to defend themselves in front of a white man, or to stand equal chances in front of a trial – and even in a situation where the African-American was not at fault, “the invisible victim is responsible for the fate of all.” (Ellison 12) Living in this reality, where he was to be punished regardless of his actions, the Invisible Man refused to feel responsible for what he did, as he noted with irony: “Poor fool, poor blind fool, I thought with sincere compassion, mugged by an invisible man!” (Ellison 4)

His violence was merely the result of social determinism – since he was not treated like a human being, he did not feel that it was necessary for him to respect any figure of authority, regardless of their power. This violence against white people led, nonetheless, to a more hateful response from the latter, in a continuous war between the races, so “both the Invisible Man and American society share the blame for their mutual invisibility and blindness.” (Morel 6) The conflict between the two men, at night, is symbolic of the unavoidable confrontation between races. The Invisible Man is a phantom, while the white person is a sleepwalker, so the two cannot coexist in peace as long as they are not part of the same world, of the same reality. There is an imbalance between the impalpable phantom and the physical, but not fully conscious sleepwalker. The phantom is more awake than the sleepwalker, but the latter has an identity that is visible to everyone and, therefore, he has more power to assert.

The clash between races can also be noticed in the Invisible Man’s war with the Monopolated Light & Power, from which he stole energy to make his hole “warm and full of light.” (Ellison 5) It seems indeed “strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light,” (Ellison 6) but it is usually the case that one desires what they are missing. The Monopolated Light & Power represents the supremacy of the white race in social and political issues, while the narrator’s theft is symbolic of his rebellion against his condition and a quiet statement that he deserves equality. Since he cannot gain direct power, or have access to light without stealing, he is “hibernating”, waiting for a chance to fight discrimination and rise to an equal position.

The place which was supposed to be dark, the “hole in the ground” (Ellison 5) is filled with light, so “Ellison’s use of these symbols not only places the light beneath, rather than “above”; it places the light within, though it is important to note that the power for Invisible Man’s light comes from the outside.” (O’Meally 154) The light from within indicates the narrator’s realization of his own importance and value, although actually putting his qualities forward as a member of the society would be impossible without the acceptance of the white race in power. The discrepancy between the two sides is emphasized in the representative scene of the battle royal, in which the narrator is tricked into joining a bloody and dehumanizing fight with other black people, for the entertainment of “leading white citizens” (Ellison 14).

Not only do they have to fight each other, but their eyes are also tied with a white cloth, making them blind towards the white spectators, as well as towards their own race and identity. The young black men cannot see each other or their white oppressors, so the two races become “invisible to each other as individuals.” (Lopez Miralles 60) The color of the cloth is symbolic of power exercised by the influential whites – even if the African-Americans wanted to take the cloth off, they were forced to put it back on, being kept in darkness deliberately, so that they could not escape from the shadow of ignorance. The narrator is also invisible to himself – under the control of the whites, he could not even command his own movements, and he felt that he “had no dignity” and “stumbled about like a baby or a drunken man.” (Ellison 18)  He had no power to fight back those who stole his freedom, and this is mainly because of the strategy of his oppressors to keep the black race disorganized and humiliated.

Intentionally setting African-Americans against each other, channeling their energy towards the basic instinct of survival made it impossible for them to see their true potential and to realize the downgrading situation they were forced to take part in. Thus, “the blindfolded boys from the battle royal are blind for not recognizing their humiliation” (López Miralles 61), and the white people only directed a show in which the black race was made invisible to itself, unable to escape. The political implications of the battle royal lie in the struggles of the black race in a capitalist society. Since African-Americans had no political or economic power, they had to endure more than white people, only to earn less than them, and in the process, to “overcome unnecessary hazards, often arbitrarily imposed”, and publicly make fools of themselves. (Kostelanetz 9)

This alienation and exploitation of individuals ultimately create a class division which forces the ones at the bottom to struggle and fight each other, while supporting the ones at the top. (Hill) In much the same way, the opportunist whites who directed the battle royal were “given entertainment and a reaffirmation that their race is the dominant one” (Hill), while the African-Americans had to fight for the little they could get. In the end, the deepest desire of the Invisible Man, as well as the whole black race in general, was simply equal chances in society, but they were kept subdued, in fear, for the benefit of the higher political and social classes, who required them to “know [their] place at all times” (Ellison 25) In conclusion, invisibility is a metaphor for the social and political situation of black people living in America at the beginning of the 20th century, as they were disregarded and ridiculed by the white race. The Invisible Man is representative of all African-Americans, trying to survive in an adverse society and waiting for the right moment to make their voice heard.


Example #11 – The Role of Illusion in Invisible Man

There are two types of illusions: optical and perceptual. Optical illusions are objects that are distorted due to the anatomy of the eye. Perceptual illusions are objects that are distorted due to the nature of the brain. A child hears a monster outside his window, but when the parent turns on the light, it is revealed that it is only a branch hitting the window. A survivalist develops frostbite in her leg and a ranger must amputate it before she dies. After the amputation, the woman sees the leg separated from her body, but can still feel it there. Perceptual illusions are an unconscious form of self-protection, but too much protection can isolate an individual. In the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the main character, a nameless, faceless black man falls victim to the illusion that his identity is determined by others and as a result severs himself from society.

The Invisible Man is narrated by a character who recently discovers that he is unseen by others. The book is a recollection of moments from his past before he realizes his invisibility. From his teenage years in the South to a Negro college to a political organization in the streets of Harlem, the Invisible Man explains how the illusion began. He is looking back at his life and realizing that he has only defined himself as to how others see him. Throughout the entire book, the Invisible Man tries to convince the reader that he is the victim of his illusion and little can be done to prevent his invisibility. One of the first memories of invisibility is when he performs a speech in front of white leaders in an event called the Battle Royal. Once in the event, he realizes that the event is actually entertainment for the rich white leaders. They urge the black youth to fight against one another and throw money at the beaten boys.

The Invisible Man reluctantly fights with the hope of reading his speech. When the whites tell him to read his speech, he is bloody and bruised. He stutters words as the drunk white men laugh at him. At the end of the speech, he is given a scholarship to a Negro College and quickly forgets about the pain he endured. The speech was about “social responsibility” and “equality”, which he quickly regrets saying, which is ironic as he is standing among the men who instructed him to put aside his otherwise peaceful nature. He explains that he had never considered himself a fighter, but in the Battle Royal, he becomes the whites stereotype him to be: an undereducated sycophant. Because the Invisible Man had not developed the illusion that he is invisible, he recites his speech louder to the white men as they drink, and talk as if they truly could not hear his voice.

The men only make more noise and laugh at the blood spraying from the boy’s mouth. This scene is the birth of the illusion that his identity is malleable. He believes that he can submit to these men in order to be successful without neglecting his true self. The older Invisible Man recalls the scene by stating that he was happy to have received the scholarship thus proving that he still does not see reality. As the Invisible Man walks through the streets of Harlem, he sees white men throwing an old black couple’s possessions out the window of the apartment the couple could not pay rent for. The Invisible Man makes a speech about the event as it is happening and a man named Brother Jack asks him to join a political organization. Brother Jack promises him a new name, past, clothing, style, and home. The Invisible Man agrees and for a short while grows famous in Harlem.

It isn’t until he makes a speech that the organization does not allow him to recite that he realizes that he is a tool. They ostracize him and once again he loses his identity. The reality of the situation was that the Invisible Man was not simply given a new identity, he was stripped of what was left of his past. He was told to forget who he once was and even given a new name. He became exactly what others wanted him to be, but when leaves he sees the reality: in his pursuit to find himself through others, he sees that others only see him as a tool. Since the story is a recollection of memories, the Invisible Man is just now, as the reader is hearing the man’s past, destroying his illusion. While his invisibility benefited him for a short period of time, he admits that he had always felt like a puppet to others. With the newly found evidence to support the claim that he his identity is not only invisible to others but also himself, he will be able to find it himself.

When the parent showed the child that the monster outside was really just a branch tapping the window, the child realized that there was no threat and he could safely go to bed. The ranger covers the survivalist’s amputated leg with a mirror. This prevents her from going into shock and stops the perceptual illusion that she can still feel her leg. When illusions are prolonged (if the child refuses to go to bed in his room because of the monster), the brain unconsciously develops more reasons to believe that the illusions are reality. When the illusions become prevent one from socializing, eating, sleeping, and other necessary human activities, they evolve into hallucinations.

Illusions, whether they are developed in his own mind or by society, haunt and torture the Invisible Man. The Invisible Man’s illusion is not a monster under the bed that can be revealed with a light switch, his illusion is his own identity. He defines himself as to how others see him, but that changes from person to person. As the story develops, the Invisible Man distinguishes reality from his illusion as he begins to realize that his identity is his own. Just as the parent turns a light on for the child to see that the monster is an illusion, the Invisible Man isolates himself in order to reveal reality. Through isolation, one may find a true identity as he or she is untouched from other’s prejudgments.


Example #12 – interesting ideas

In invisible man what does Supercargo symbolize?

Answer. The athlete/entertainer. Are leaders made, or are they born? Considering the various types of black leaders portrayed in Invisible Man, this conundrum that has puzzled scholars throughout the ages raises questions regarding the unique qualities that define black leadership, as opposed to those that define leadership in general. Invisible Man portrays numerous profiles of black leaders and leadership styles. While some are based on historical figures (such as Booker T. Washington, Louis Armstrong, and Marcus Garvey), others are based on character types such as the powerful black Southern preacher (Rev. Homer A. Barbee) and the black educator (Dr. Bledsoe). In his speech at West Point, describing the writing process for Invisible Man, Ellison states that he was “concerned with the nature of leadership,” and by the lack of effective black leaders in America.

Examples of various leadership roles explored throughout the novel that illustrate some of the issues involved in developing effective black leaders follow. In each case, the individuals who assume these leadership roles are limited by society, which consistently reminds them not to “go too fast.” Also, the narrator assumes several of these roles as he undergoes his gradual transformation from “ranter to writer.” The Athlete/Entertainer. The athlete/entertainer provides hope for the community by capturing the people’s imagination and demonstrating through his own success that, despite the seemingly dismal state of affairs, a better world is possible. This type of leader was exemplified in real life by Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Paul Robeson. In the novel, Tod Clifton (the prizefighter) throws carefully calculated jabs and punches at Ras in Chapter 9, and Tatlock and Supercargo, attempting to use their physical strength to deal with their environment, characterize the athlete/entertainer.

The Educator. Raised on the philosophy that education is the key to success and opportunity, the educator is best exemplified by figures such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. While Washington believed in practical education for the masses, Du Bois believed that education should be reserved for an elite “Talented Tenth” of the black population, who should dedicate themselves to learning the higher arts, such as literature, poetry, and philosophy. He believed that the members of this elite group of educated men and women must then assume the responsibility for educating their brothers and sisters. In the novel, the educator is represented primarily by Dr. Bledsoe who represents a distortion of both models, as he is primarily interested in maintaining his position of prominence at the college, rather than in educating his students to be productive members of society.

The Orator. Convinced that the art of public speaking and the ability to express oneself clearly and eloquently is the key to leadership, the orator is exemplified by figures such as Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey. Ras the Exhorter, Homer A. Barbee, and the narrator represent this type of leader in Invisible Man. The Intellectual/Philosopher. Relying on wit and intellect to deal with life’s realities, the intellectual/philosopher type, such as W.E.B. Du Bois is represented in the novel by the cart-man, the bartenders (Big Halley and Barrelhouse), and the vet. In keeping with the novel’s sense of inverted reality, these characters exemplify the narrator’s comment in the Prologue concerning the junkman as a man of vision.

The Preacher. This type of leader relies on his religious beliefs and spiritual strength. Although he sometimes loses sight of reality, he tries to provide his people with a vision of a better world where they will no longer have to bear the pain and suffering of this world. Historical Examples of the preacher include Father Divine, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rev. Jesse Jackson. In the novel, Rev. Homer A. Barbee and the Rev. B.P Rinehart, “Spiritual Technologist,” exemplifies the preacher’s leadership.

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The Separatist/Black Nationalist. The Black Nationalist believes that integration is not a solution to racism and segregation. Consequently, the only way black people will ever gain respect and equality is to build their own nation. The Black Nationalist stands in violent opposition to the staunch integrationist—represented by Brother Wrestrum—who believes that affiliating himself with a primarily white organization will provide him with a sense of identity, dignity, and security. The most prominent black Nationalist was Marcus Garvey, although groups such as the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers subscribe to a similar philosophy. In the novel, Ras the Exhorter represents the Black Nationalist philosophy.

The Ancestor. Reminding his people of the courage of their enslaved forebears, the ancestor instills his community with a sense of pride in their cultural and racial heritage. Examples in the novel include the grandfather, the vet, Brother Tarp, and Sister and Brother Provo. The Token. Also referred to as a “sellout,” the token black leader gains his power through the support and approval of whites. Although he appears to be one of the most powerful leaders, as evidenced by his trappings of success (Dr. Bledsoe’s two Cadillacs and the narrator’s new suit), he is one of the most contemptible and least effective leaders because his leadership depends primarily on his ability to cater to the whims of those who are truly in power.

The Artist/Writer. According to Ellison, the artist/writer is responsible for holding out a vision for a society of a better world that is possible only if his audience insists on holding onto their dreams. In the novel, the narrator finally achieves this role when he retires to his underground hideout and, leaving behind the chaos and violence of the external world, finds peace and tranquility in his inner reality. The novel focuses primarily on male leaders, but Ellison also alludes to the power of women, as evidenced by his portrayal of the outspoken West Indian woman at the eviction of Brother and Sister Provo, Sister Provo’s determination to return to her house to pray, and Mary Rambo’s courage and generosity. In various ways, these women portray the image of the supportive, loving mother who makes it possible for her sons to survive and pursue their dreams of leadership, an image underscored by the narrator’s definition of mother: “The one who screams when you suffer.”

Help on Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison!!!?
How one character (im using the narrator) navigates the journey from dreams to reality. Consider what kind of course they follow and how they change for/from their journey. What is the narrator’s dreams/goals/aspirations in life…I need help I don’t get it!! Thanks in advance!!!!!

Invisible Man is narrated in the first person by the protagonist, an unnamed African American man who considers himself socially invisible. His character may have been inspired by Ellison’s own life. The narrator may be conscious of his audience, writing as a way to make himself visible to mainstream culture; the book is structured as if it were the narrator’s autobiography although it begins in the middle of his life. In the Prologue, Ellison’s narrator tells readers, “I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century.”

In this secret place, the narrator creates surroundings that are symbolically illuminated with 1,369 lights. He says, “My hole is warm and full of light. Yes, full of light. I doubt if there is a brighter spot in all New York than this hole of mine, and I do not exclude Broadway.” The protagonist explains that light is an intellectual necessity for him since “the truth is the light and light is the truth.” From this underground perspective, the narrator attempts to make sense out of his life, experiences, and position in American society.

At the beginning of the book, the narrator lives in a small Southern town. He is a model black student and is named his high school’s valedictorian. Having written and delivered a successful speech about the requirement of humility for the black man’s progress, he is invited to give his speech before a group of important white men. However, he is first forced to fight a humiliating “battle royal” with other blacks. The “battle royal” consists of the young black men from the community-fighting in a boxing-style ring while their white superiors watch in enjoyment. After finally giving his speech, he receives a briefcase containing a scholarship to a black college that is clearly modeled on Tuskegee Institute.

During his junior year at the college, the narrator is required to give Mr. Norton, a rich white trustee, a tour of the grounds. He accidentally drives to the house of Jim Trueblood, a black man living on the college’s outskirts who impregnated his daughter. Trueblood, though disgraced by his fellow blacks, has been supported by whites who wish to hold him up as an example of black inferiority. Mr. Norton wants to hear Trueblood’s story, as the man disproves everything Norton once believed about the relationship between whites and blacks, and this experience causes Norton to faint, prompting the Invisible Man to take him to a local tavern in a misguided search for aid. At the Golden Day tavern, Norton passes in and out of consciousness as black veterans suffering from mental delusions occupy the bar and a fight breaks out among them. One of the veterans claims to be a doctor and tends to Mr. Norton.

The dazed and confused Mr. Norton is not fully aware of what’s going on, as the veteran doctor chastises the actions of the trustee and the young black college student. Through all the chaos, the narrator manages to get the recovered Mr. Norton back to the campus after a day of unusual events. Upon returning to the school he is fearful of the reaction of the day’s incidents from college president Dr. Bledsoe. At any rate, insight into Dr. Bledsoe’s knowledge of the events and the narrator’s future at the campus is somewhat prolonged as an important visitor arrives. The narrator views a sermon by the highly respected Reverend Homer A. Barbee. Barbee, who is blind, delivers a speech about the legacy of the college’s founder, with such passion and resonance that he comes vividly alive to the narrator; his voice makes up for his blindness.

The narrator is so inspired by the speech that he feels impassioned like never before to contribute to the college’s legacy. However, all his dreams are shattered as a meeting with Bledsoe reveals his fate. Fearing that the college’s funds will be jeopardized by the incidents that occurred, college president, Dr. Bledsoe immediately expels the narrator. While the Invisible Man once aspired to be like Bledsoe, he realizes that the man has portrayed himself as a black stereotype in order to succeed in the white-dominated society. This serves as the first epiphany among many in the narrator realizing his invisibility. This epiphany is not yet complete when Bledsoe gives him several letters of recommendation to help him find work in the north. Upon arriving in New York, the narrator learns that these letters instruct various friends of the school to assist Dr. Bledsoe in keeping the narrator deceived about his chances at returning to school – that is, help employ him, keep him otherwise occupied, and away from the university.

He eventually gets a job in the boiler room of a paint factory in a company renowned for its white paints (an obvious racial reference). The man in charge of the boiler room, Lucius Brockway, is extremely paranoid and thinks that the narrator has come to take his job. He is also extremely loyal to the company’s owner, who once paid him a personal visit. When the narrator tells him about a union meeting he happened upon, Brockway is outraged and attacks him. They fight, not realizing that the boilers are about to explode. Brockway escapes, but the narrator is hospitalized after the blast. While hospitalized, the narrator overhears doctors discussing him as a mental health patient (or as the book suggests, simply a lab rat for their experiments). He learns through their discussion that shock treatment has been performed on him.

After the shock treatments, the narrator attempts to return to his residence when he feels overwhelmed by certain dizziness and faints on the streets of Harlem. He is taken to the residence of a kind, old-fashioned woman by the name of Mary. Mary is down-to-earth and reminds the narrator of his relatives in the South and friends at the college. Mary somewhat serves as a mother figure for the narrator. No longer able to work at the factory, the narrator wanders the streets of New York. Eventually, he comes across an elderly couple being evicted from their apartment and gives an impromptu speech rallying by-passers to their cause. The onlookers, angry at the marshal in charge of the eviction, charge past him and start a riot.

His otherwise powerful speech brings him to the attention of the Brotherhood, an equality-minded organization with obvious communist undertones. Their leader, Brother Jack, who witnessed the speech and the riot, recruits him and begins training him as an orator, with the intention of uniting New York’s black community. The narrator is at first happy to be making a difference in the world, “making history,” in his new job. He gives several successful speeches and is soon promoted to head the Brotherhood’s work in Harlem. While for the most part, his rallies go smoothly, he soon encounters trouble from Ras the Exhorter, a fanatical black nationalist who believes that the Brotherhood is controlled by whites. Ras tells this to the narrator and Tod Clifton, a youth leader of the Brotherhood, neither of whom seem to be swayed by his words.

Soon the narrator’s name is all over Harlem, and a magazine calls to interview him. Though he tries to convince them to interview Tod Clifton instead, they insist upon him. When the article comes out, one brother criticizes him for taking personal credit for the work, instead of emphasizing the whole of the Brotherhood. Though his work has been impeccable, the Brotherhood’s ruling committee decides to take him out of Harlem and set him to work in a new part of town. When he returns to Harlem, Tod Clifton has disappeared. When the narrator finds him, he realizes that Clifton has succumbed to Ras’s point of view, and has quit the brotherhood in order to sell dancing Sambo dolls on the street, mocking the organization he once believed in. He is shot to death by a police officer in a scuffle. At Clifton’s funeral, the narrator rallies crowds to win back his former widespread Harlem support and delivers a rousing speech, but he is censured by the Brotherhood for praising a man who would sell such dolls.

Walking along the street one day, the narrator is spotted by Ras and roughed up by his men. He buys sunglasses and a hat as a disguise and is mistaken for a man named Rinehart in a number of different scenarios: first as a lover, then a hipster, a gambler, a briber, and at last a reverend. He sees that Rinehart has adapted to white society, at the cost of his own identity. This causes the narrator to see that his own identity is not of importance to the Brotherhood, but only his blackness. He decides to take his grandfather’s dying advice and “yes” the Brotherhood to death, by making it appear that the Harlem membership is thriving when in reality it is crumbling. The novel ends with a massive Harlem race riot, fueled by anger over Clifton’s death and the tension between the Brotherhood and the followers of Ras. Riding a horse in full tribal regalia, Ras orders the narrator to hanged and throws a spear at him.

The narrator hurls the spear back, piercing Ras’s cheek. He now realizes that even in trying to subvert the Brotherhood, he has only aided its white-controlled interests in helping to start a race riot that will generate sympathy and propaganda for the organization. Blinded by his epiphany, the narrator runs away and is soon accosted by a group of men for his briefcase. He once again flees and the narrator falls down a manhole, where he is taunted by his pursuers. Rather than try to escape, he decides to make a new life for himself underground, invisible. As mentioned at the beginning of the story, he taps an electric wire running into the building so he can power his collection of 1,369 bulbs in the basement, hidden from the power company. His theft of power from a white-controlled company, and new rent-free residence under a white-only building, are symbols of his invisible rebellion against white society.

What is the beginning of The Invisible man about? What is the beginning of the invisible man by H.G Wells about? Like the first 4 chapters?

Answer. CHAPTER 1. The Strange Man’s Arrival. Summary. A stranger arrives at Bramblehurst railway station. He is bundled from head to foot with only the tip of his nose showing. He enters the Coach & Horses Inn and demands a room and a fire. Mrs. Hall, the owner prepares supper for him and offers to take his coat and hat, but he refuses to take them off. When he finally removes the hat, his entire head is swathed in a bandage. Mrs. Hall thinks he has endured some accidents. She tries to get him to talk about himself, but he is taciturn with her, although not particularly rude.

CHAPTER 2. Mr. Teddy Henfrey’s First Impressions. Summary. Teddy Henfrey, a clock repairman, comes to the inn for tea. Mrs. Hall asks him to “repair the clock” in the stranger’s room. Teddy deliberately takes as long as he can with the clock, taking it apart and reassembling it for no reason. The stranger finally gets him to hurry up and leave. Offended, Teddy talks himself into believing that the stranger is someone of a suspicious nature, perhaps even wanted by the police, and is wrapped up to conceal his identity. Teddy runs into Mr. Hall and warns him about the stranger, informing him that a “lot of luggage” will be coming. It would seem that the stranger intends to stay awhile. Mr. Hall goes home intending to investigate the stranger but is put off by the short-tempered demeanor of his wife.

CHAPTER 3. The Thousand and One Bottle. Summary. The stranger’s luggage arrives at the inn. Numerous crates fill the deliveryman’s cart, some of them containing bottles packaged in straw. Fireside, the cartman, owns a dog that starts to growl when the stranger comes down the steps to help with the boxes. The dog jumps for the stranger’s hand but misses and sinks his teeth in a pant leg. The dog tears open the trouser leg, whereupon the stranger goes quickly back into the inn and to his room. Concerned about the possibility of injury, Mr. Hall goes to the stranger’s room. He gets a glimpse of what seems like a white mottled face before he is shoved by an unseen force back through the door. The stranger soon reappears at the door, his trousers changed, and gives orders for the rest of his luggage. The stranger unpacks 6 crates of bottles, which he arranges across the windowsill and all the available table and shelf space in the inn’s parlor-a space he seems to have commandeered for himself.

Mrs. Hall enters later to tend to his needs and catches a quick glimpse of him without his glasses. His eyes seem hollow; he quickly puts his glasses on. She starts to complain about the straw on the floor, but he tells her to put it on the bill and to knock before entering his rooms. She points out that he could lock his door if he doesn’t want to be bothered, advice that he takes. He then works behind the locked door all afternoon. At one point, Mrs. Hall hears him raving about not being able to “go on.” She hears a sound like a bottle being broken. Later she takes him tea and notes the broken glass and a stain on the floor. He again tells her to “put it on the bill.” Meanwhile Fearenside talks in the beer shop of Iping Hangar. Fireside says that the stranger is a “black man,” an assumption derived from the absence of “pink flesh” when the trouser leg was ripped open. When reminded of the pink nose, Fearenside claims that the man must therefore be a “piebald,” or a part white, part black creature.

CHAPTER 4. Mr. Cuss Interviews the Stranger. Summary. The stranger works diligently in his room until the end of April with only occasional skirmishes with Mrs. Hall. Whenever she disapproves of anything he does, he quiets her with additional payment. He rarely goes out during the day, but goes out nearly every night, muffled up regardless of the weather. His identity becomes a topic of speculation in the town. Mrs. Hall defends him, repeating his own words that he is an “experimental investigator.” The view of the town is that he is a criminal trying to escape justice. Mr. Gould, the probationary assistant imagines that the man must be an “anarchist” who is preparing explosives.

Another group of people believes he is a piebald and could make a lot of money if he chose to show himself at the fairs. All agree, however, that due to his habits of secrecy, they dislike him. The young men begin to mock his bearing; a song called “Bogey Man” becomes popular and children follow at a distance calling out “Bogey Man.” The curiosity of a general practitioner named Cuss is aroused, and he contrives for an interview. During the interview, the stranger accidentally removes his hand from his pocket. Cuss is able to see down the empty sleeve to the elbow. Cuss questions him about “moving an empty sleeve.” The stranger laughs, then extends the empty sleeve toward Cuss’s face and pinches his nose. Cuss leaves in terror and tells his story to Bunting, the vicar.


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Invisible Man Essay. (2020, Dec 07). Retrieved January 30, 2023, from

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