Editing Liberty Paint

09 Jan

Let’s take a moment and “play” editor.  You are Ralph Ellison’s editor.  He submits chapters 10 and 11 of his draft of Invisible Man for critique.  You read the pages and ponder how they fit with the rest of the novel.  Working at the paint factory.  Fighting with the Brockway.  The explosion.  The hospitalization/experimentation.  The recovery and release.

Do they fit?  Sure.  Chapters 10-11 provide additional opportunities for the narrator to be victimized.  More obstacles.  But are the chapters necessary to the rest of the story?

I have to say that I expected to see lasting effects from whatever procedures were done to the narrator in the factory hospital, but other than a few random flashbacks there did not seem to be any.  Perhaps the whole purpose of this subplot was to get the narrator into Miss Mary’s care?

What do you think?  Could chapters 10-11 have been left out of the classic completely?


Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Invisible Man


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2 responses to “Editing Liberty Paint

  1. Ruth @ A Great Book Study

    January 9, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I think it was one more opportunity to expose the reader (and the narrator) to the ideas of that time provided by the narrator’s co-worker – or whatever the paint mixer was. He was radical about something, and he rambled on and on – which is what Ellison was really good for – about his ideas and opinions. Notice how many characters do that? Ellison used them to lecture us.

  2. Jeannette

    January 12, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Well, if those chapters wouldn’t have been in the book, you wouldn’t have had that really cool (and symbolic) thing about making the best and most brilliantly white paint by adding shades of black to it. The experimentation could explain away all the confusion we might have over some of his comments and actions later. Just attribute it all to the earlier “therapy.” 🙂


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