Tag 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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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 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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Chapter Check-in


It’s check-in time.  Where are you in Invisible Man?  After finishing chapter fifteen, I realized that  Ellison writes great chapter endings.  Check it out.

chapter 1:  (It was a dream I was to remember and dream again for many years after.  But at that time I had no insight into its meaning.  First I had to attend college.)

chapter 2: I stepped on the gas, wondering where I could get some whisky.  Not in the town, that would take too long.  There was only one place, the Golden Day
“I’ll have you some in a few minutes, sir.”  I said.
“As soon as you can,” he said.

chapter 3: He was silent as I drove away.

chapter 4: I left somewhat reassured, but not completely,  I still had to face Dr. Bledsoe.  And I had to attend chapel.

chapter 5:  I stood in the darkened doorway trying to probe my future if I were expelled.  Where would I go,what would I do?  How could I ever return home?

chapter 6: I grabbed my bags and hurried for the bus.

chapter 7: I reached Men’s House in a sweat, registered, and went immediately to my room.  I would have to take Harlem a little at a time.

chapter 8: Something was certain to happen tomorrow.  And it did.  I received a letter from Mr. Emerson.

chapter 9: I could hardly get to sleep for dreaming of revenge.

The author does a great job leading the reader into the next chapter.  I could almost use the ending sentences as chapter summaries.  Pretty nifty.

Summarize your feelings about the novel so far and while you’re at it, please leave your place in the comments.

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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Invisible Man


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In Invisible Man chapter 2, Mr. Norton and Jim Trueblood meet.  I’ll phrase this delicately.  Mrs. Trueblood and her daughter are both expecting.  Jim Trueblood is not going to be an uncle.  No, he’s going to be a father again.  Twice.

That said, my question is about school trustee Mr. Norton’s reaction to the scandal.

“You did and are unharmed!” he shouted, his blue eyes blazing into the black face with something like envy and indignation.  Trueblood looked helplessly at me.  I looked away.  I understood no more than he.

Envy?  Norton meets a man who has committed incest and he looks on him with envy?

Earlier in the chapter Norton described his beautiful dead daughter and showed the narrator her framed miniature.  Norton goes on and on about her beauty, her goodness, her purity.  She died when they were traveling the world together–just the two of them.  He’s never recovered.  Never forgiven himself.

Is the reader supposed to think….   ?

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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Invisible Man


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