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Tag Archives: Ralph Ellison

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?

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

No?

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

Yes.

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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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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Diagnosis

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

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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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Creepy

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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Way with Words

Even if I don’t always care for Ellison’s shocking storylines, I do appreciate his literary craftsmanship.

The boys groped about like blind, cautious crabs crouching to protect their mid-sections, their heads pulled in short against their shoulders, their arms stretched nervously before them, with their fists testing the smoke-filled air like the knobbed feelers of hypersensitive snails. Invisible Man chapter 1

I don’t care to relive the Battle Royal scene, but, boy, oh boy, that is a beautifully written sentence!

 

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2013 in Invisible Man

 

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Invisible Themes

No googling this time.

After reading just one chapter of Invisible Man, I’m risking it all and stating what I think will be themes in the novel: darkness and light–with variations including blindness (or being blindfolded)

Chapter 1 is a doozy.  There’s the battle royal and other incidents that I prefer not to discuss on our PG rated blog.  Did you focus on the darkness?  The narrator says “I was unused to darkness” as he’s blindfolded and forced to brawl.

Perhaps I have insight or perhaps I took the prologue as a huge hint.  Remember the narrator’s lightbulb style of home decorating?  Yes, I’m quite confident that darkness and light are themes in this classic.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in Invisible Man

 

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