Category Archives: Invisible Man

Would You Believe

Where have I been?  Would you believe I fell down a manhole on to a pile of coal and was trapped in the dark?


Would you believe I’ve been installing 1,369 lightbulbs into my underground home, stealing power from the electric company?


Would you believe I had a classic book identity crisis and wasn’t sure I could take yet another disturbing, depressing novel ending?


I should have paid closer attention to Emma’ prediction in chapter fourteen.  I could have better prepared myself.

“Tell me, where did you find this young hero of the people?
“I didn’t,” Brother Jack said.  “He simply arose out of a crowd. The people always throw up their leaders, you know…”
“Throw them up,” she said, “Nonsense, they chew them up and spit them out.  Their leaders are made, not born.  Then they’re destroyed.  You’ve always said that.”

After that quote, it took another two hundred pages for the narrator to be properly chewed up and spat out.  Two hundred pages of shock and horror.  Deception and betrayal.  Shootings and riots.

The chaos comes to an abrupt end; the narrator shares from his celler, “I’m invisible, not blind.”

I wasn’t blind at our wrap-up, but I did have a case of selective mutism.  When it came time to answer the question, “What is the author’s argument?”, I gave a shoulder shrug, staring blankly at my reading partners. Finally, I threw out a weak comparison with Native Son and latched on to the word hopelessness.  Jeannette disagreed.  She felt Invisible Man had a more hopeful ending than the close of Wright’s novel did.  She saw Ellison demonstrating a need for enlightenment, particularly regarding the United States’ historical journey.

What were your thoughts at the end of Invisible Man?  Was the ending hopeful or not?

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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Invisible Man


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Up on the Housetop

invisible_manChristmas is over, but we still have characters up on the housetop.  No reindeer pausing.  Just a man fleeing police sirens.  After the eviction speech in chapter thirteen of Invisible Man, the narrator is forced to make a get away and escapes across rooftops.

A gallon of Liberty Paint to the first reader who can name another classic character who tried to make a getaway in this fashion.

ETA: Can you believe there really are some Liberty Paint stores out there?  I retract my earlier offer and award the winner a virtual high-five instead.

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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Invisible Man


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Questionable Check-in


In chapter thirteen the narrator witnesses an eviction.  Distraught over what he sees, the narrator begins a spontaneous speech.  Does this speech have a point?  What does he hope to accomplish?  Is it a bunch of craziness?

Even if I had trouble following his line of thought, the crowd didn’t and his words moved them to action.  What did you think about the “Eviction Speech”?
Please share your thoughts and your place in the comments.

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Invisible Man


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Editing Liberty Paint

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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The Letter

Invisible Man Chapter 9

When you finally got to read Dr Bledsoe’s letter of introduction for the narrator, were you surprised at its contents?

Sadly, I was not.  I doubted Bledsoe’s trustworthiness from that revealing interview in his office.

When it comes time to complete those end of the book WEM wrap-up questions, simply add “The Letters” to the list of things standing in our main character’s way.

I thought that Ellison crafted two particularly interesting sentences in this chapter.  After the narrator’s humiliation with Bledsoe’s letters, he flees to the Men’s House.  Here he flops on his bed and dictates his own letter to Ellison.  Part of which says…

“Please hope him to death, and keep him running.”

Hoped to death.  Such a sad sentiment.

Remember when I said Ellison wrote great chapter endings?  My other favorite sentence from this chapter was the very last one.

“I could hardly get to sleep for dreaming of revenge.”

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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Invisible Man


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Remembering how to Check-in


Just like my children, I’m resisting getting back into a regular routine.
There’s been lots of whining.
On my part.

I like vacation.  I like eating too much.  Taking too many naps.  Laughing with family and friends.  Snuggling under blankets when it’s cold and snowy outside.

Over the break I even read a book or two for fun.  for FUN!
Of course that was only after I finished Invisible Man.
So tell me, did you finish Ellison’s book?
Would you call it a classic?
Did you read anything else over the break?
Please share in the comments.

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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Invisible Man


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Check-in Cameo


I was reminded of Native Son‘s Bigger Thomas in chapter seven.  In chapter nine of Invisible Man, a friend from the past pops up in the text.  Two friends, actually: Jim and Huck Finn.  In case your holiday reading has slowed down (like mine), I won’t explain what Twain’s characters are doing in Ellison’s book.  I’ll just ask if you’ve run into any other classic character cameos in your reading.  Please share the cameos and your place in the comments.

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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Invisible Man


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It used to be…

Invisible Man Chapter 7

Kicked out of college, our narrator climbs on a bus headed north.  A travel companion turns out to be the doctor veteran from The Golden Day.  It’s this institutionalized man whose words connect the literary dots between Invisible Man and another classic novel.

Connecting the Literary Dots

“Yes, I know,” the vet said, “but think of what this means for the young fellow.  He’s going free, in the broad daylight and alone.  I can remember when young fellows like him had first to commit a crime, or be accused of one, before they tried such a thing.  Instead of leaving in the light of morning, they went in the dark of night.”

Native Son, anyone?

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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Invisible Man


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Invisible Man chapter 6

The chapel service is over and our narrator is back in Dr. Bledsoe’s office.  If eyes are the windows to the soul, Doctor Bledsoe’s soul is remaining in the shadow of his glasses.  Did you notice how many times his glasses hide his face, mask his true feelings?

In Bledsoe’s office the narrator receives the education he missed out during his years of college.

There are lessons about lying:  “the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie!”

There are lessons about honesty: “So you go ahead, go tell your story, match your truth against my truth, because what I’ve said is truth, the broader truth.”

There are lessons about character:  “You let the white folk worry about pride and dignity–you learn where you are and get yourself power, influence, contacts with powerful and influential people–then stay in the dark and use it!”

Dr. Bledsoe has revealed that he does not always practice what he preaches.

After this enlightening schooling session, I no longer trust Dr. Bledsoe and his sealed letters of recommendation.  Do you?

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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in Invisible Man


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Invisible Man chapter 3

Mr. Norton is having a most “interesting” afternoon.  In search of refreshment, our narrator rushes the trustee to the local watering hole, The Golden Day.  The bar choice could have been better.  In the midst of Mr. Norton’s fainting spells, the mentally unstable, veteran doctor gives a diagnosis.  First to Mr. Norton.  But his ailment is not shared with the reader.  A few pages later the vet describes the narrator’s troubles.

… “Behold! a walking zombie!  Already he’s learned to repress not only his emotions but his humanity.  He’s invisible. a walking personification of the Negative, the most perfect achievement of your dreams, sir!  The mechanical man!”

Repressing emotions and humanity?
Sounds to me like the narrator has a serious case of 1984-itis.

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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Invisible Man


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