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Ras the who?

invisible-man-by-ralph-ellisonOnly a few pages into Ellison’s work, I read the name “Ras the Destroyer”.

Ras the Destroyer?  Is that someone from mythology?  someone from Shakespeare?  Beowulf?
Thinking I should fill this gap in my knowledge base, I googled him.

Cliff’s Notes says: The character of Ras is reminiscent of Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of Richard Wright’s Native Son, often referred to as the ultimate protest novel. 

Ahhh.  Now it makes sense.  Ellison was trained as a musician, but “a visit to New York and a meeting with Richard Wright led to his (Ellison’s) first attempts at fiction.”    Remember that it was Wright and his writing that prompted Ellison to pick up the pen.

We will formally meet the character named Ras later in the tale.
Ras, who?  Ras the Destroyer.  Ras the Exhorter.
Either way, when we finally are introduced I’ll be thinking of Bigger.

 

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2013 in Invisible Man

 

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A Confidant

1984
Book III chapter ii

O’Brien is taking his time torturing Winston.  He’s using the special machine with the dial to reteach Winston the proper way to think: doublethink.  In the midst of unspeakable pain, Winston is finally able to say all the things he’s always wanted to.  He talks about the war and its ever-changing enemy.  He talks about his diary.  He talks about the newspaper photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford.

O’Brien is determined.  He will teach Winston that 2+ 2=5.

The torture continues until finally Winston can’t even answer the simple math question.  He receives pain medicine.

He opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O’Brien.  At sight of the heavy, lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart seemed to turn over.  If he could have moved he would have stretched out a hand and laid it on O’Brien’s arm.  He had never loved him so deeply as at this moment, and not merely because he had stopped the pain.  The old feeling, that at the bottom it did not matter whether O’Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back..  O’Brien was a person who could be talked to.

“O’Brien was a person who could be talked to.”

In the margin of my book I wrote, “like Bigger with Max”.

Certainly Max isn’t like O’Brien.  Native Son ‘s Jewish lawyer really did want to help his client Bigger Thomas, but Winston and Bigger have experienced the same kind of isolation.  Both men were alone with their thoughts… always.  It was never safe for them to share ideas… with anyone.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in 1984

 

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The End is the Beginning

All these murders, all these trials.  It’s almost too obvious to say that they’re connected.  It would be like saying, “Hey, I found a literary link – both Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina had affairs!”

I’d like to think that there is little bit more to the one that I found between Native Son and The Stranger, though.  Sure, they both murdered the innocent.  Sure, they both spent a great bulk of their stories in the court of law.  Sure, they both met the same demise.

The real similarity though, exists in their counterintuitive reaction to the death they caused.  Both men found murder to be the beginning, yes beginning of their lives.  Here we have it from Monsieur Meursault himself.

The trigger gave; I felt the smooth underside of the butt; and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, is where it all started.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in The Stranger

 

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Bigger Hate

I’m back at it again.   I couldn’t stop noticing what Bigger hates.   And the more I wrote down, the more jumped out at me.   There was a LOT of hate inside that man.

Right away on page 10, he hates his family.  (Why?   Because “he knew they were suffering and that he was powerless to help them.”)

He hates all the Daltons and even hates their house (for all it had made him feel since he first came into it).

He hates himself. (page 105 – Sounds like this one stems from jealousy of the Daltons and all their possessions.)

He hates Inspector Britton.   He hates Bessie.

Here’s a quote from Book Two that brings hate and love together with what Bigger wants:

What did he want?  What did he love and what did he hate?   He did not know.   There was something he knew and something he felt; something the world gave him and something he himself had; something spread out in front of him and something spread out in back; and never in all his life, with this black skin of his, had the two worlds, thought and feeling, will and mind, aspiration and satisfaction, been together; never had he felt a sense of wholeness.  Sometimes, in his room or on the sidewalk, the world seemed to him a strange labyrinth even when the streets were straight and the walls were square; a chaos which made him feel that something in him should be able to understand it, divide it, focus it.  But only under the stress of hate was the conflict resolved.

At the beginning of Book Three, he momentarily puts aside his hate, figuring that it wouldn’t help him.  This tells me that at the other times, he uses the hate.  He needs the hate to function.   The hate gives him purpose.  It’s so much a part of him, that normal functioning is impossible without it.   The hate resolves the inner conflict inside of him, according to the above quote.

Small wonder, then, that murder is the climax in this life-story of hate.   I’m sure that’s one of the points Wright is trying to get across.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Native Son

 

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