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Invisible Man–Ralph Ellison Essay, Research Paper


I. Synopsis

A. ?Invisible Man? is about a black man and his struggles until he eventually becomes ?invisible? to society

1. Youth-given a chance for an education

2. New York- finding a job and joining the Brotherhood

3. Becoming invisible

B. Characters

1. Ellison

a. never describes himself

b. well educated, tries to become white

2. Mr. Norten- rich man, says Ellison is his ?destiny?

3. Dr. Bedlose- head of the University, kicks Ellsion out

4. The Brothers- Brother Clifton

C. Major issues in the book are the ways that Ellsion?s character

oppresses himself rather than other people doing to for him

II. Novel is a primary example of the hesitance of the blacks to feel confident in American society

A. Author wrote book to confuse me- had to read pages many times-

didn?t describe people or places, just things- didn?t read in to he nuances

B. Book will help me when we start to study the Black movement because

it shows where the begingings started

C. Ellison?s Character ?speaks? while being invisible, pg 576-581

III. Had and impact on the way I look at my place in society

A. Think of it not like a ?black novel? but as one big analogy

B. Every one is an ?invisible man? in one way

In Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison?s narrator recalls to us how he became ?invisible? to the world. Since the name of the narrator is never known I wlll refer to him as Brother X. The novel opens with Brother X describing what it is like to be invisible: ?I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edger Allen Poe…I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids00and I might even go said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me..That invisibility of which I refer to occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. … those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality… In the introduction, Brother X shares with us the advantages of his being invisible; he also explains to us that he lives in a ?pit? that is damp and dark, yet full of light. Living in this pit makes him realize that he is black and blue. ?I was born black, but what did I do to become blue? Bear with me.?

During the first couple chapters of the book, Brother X tells us about his education. He attended a prestigious collage in the South and was a top student. While at the University, he met a prominent white man named Mr. Nortan. He was Mr. Nortan?s driver during his stay. Although we only hear about Mr. Nortan for a few chapters, and he doesn?t show up again until the end of the book, he plays a very important role. He said that he didn?t have a destiny, that Brother X and others like him were is destiny. Brother X often refers to being Mr. Nortan?s destiny for the rest of the book.

After a violation of the rules, Brother X is kicked out of school. Thinking he will be able to return next term, he heads off to New York to find a job. He has with him references from Dr. Bedlose, the dean who kicked him out. He was told not to open the letters, but after not hearing back from any of the jobs, he opens one. The letter explained to the potential employers that Brother X had been expelled from the University and it would not be wise to employ him.

After several blue collar jobs, Brother X ends up giving and impromptu speech at an eviction and catching the attention of several leaders in the Brotherhood movement. He is employed by the Brotherhood and given a new ID, which we never learn. The Brotherhood was an organization in Harlem that focused on unity through peace. Brother X finds himself giving speeches all over Harlem and invading the territory of Ras, the Exhorter?s group of black Nationalists.

After a while with the Brotherhood, the Youth leader, Brother Clifton disappears. The Brotherhood movement starts to lose its force and they start to talk of shutting down. One day, while Brother X is walking down the street, he spots Clifton illegally selling dolls which were demeaning to blacks. Clifton refuses arrest and ends up being shot. At Cliftons funeral, Brother X is asked to speak. When Brother X crosses the line by insulting the law enforcement and trying to rally the black community together, he is asked to leave the Brotherhood. A series of events forces Brother X into his sunless ?pit? where he finds the advantages of being invisible.

Invisible Man is by far the hardest book I have ever tried to read. Every time I flip through it, I understand more, but become more confused. This book is full of more nuances than 1984, The Giver, Fahrenhiet 451, Brave New World, and Lord of the Flies put together. There is no way I can even try to pinpoint where the novel fits in to American society and history. On the surface, the book talks about the general feelings of frustration and false hope that the blacks faced trying to fit into society, but the book can be adapted to any stage of history and social development. Everything in the book has a deeper meaning that I can only begin to read into, the subtly of some things and vivid description of others is hard to understand.

I am in no place to try and guess Ellison?s reason for writing Invisible Man. The novel was very hard to read, yet it intrigued me from the first line of the book. The fact that Brother X ?speaks? to us by being invisible is the idea that related to me the most. I have to remind myself to step back and realize that we are all ?just another brick in the wall? and that when we try too hard to make ourselves heard, we find out that sometimes the best way to be heard is when people don?t think that they are listening.

When I first started to read Invisible Man, I thought it was going to be a ?black novel?, like Black Like Me, or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The novel became not a book about being black, but being unseen . After I was finished with the book I realized I should have read the Epilogue first. I will pick out some of the pieces that help explain being ?invisible?.

?So there you have all of it that?s important. Or at least you almost have it. I?m an invisible man and it placed me in a hole–or showed me the hole I was in, it you will–and I reluctantly accepted the fact. …There is , by the way, and area in which a man?s feelings are more rational that his mind,and it is precisely in the area that his will is pulled in several directions at the same time. You might sneer at this, buy I know now. I was pulled this way and that for as long as I can remember. And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way buy my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I have to call myself. So, after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others, I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man. Thus I have come a long way and returned and boomeranged a long way from the point in society toward which Ioriginally aspired…You go along for years knowing something is wrong, then suddenly you discover that you?re as transparent as air. At first you tell yourself that it?s all a dirty joke, or that it?s due to the ?political situation? But deep down you come to suspect that you yourself are to blame, and you stand marked and shivering before the millions of eyes who look through you unseeingly. That is the real soul sickness….Being invisible and without substance, a disembodied voice as it were, what else could I do? What else buy try to tell you what was really happening when your eyes were looking through? And it is this which frightens me: Who knows ,but that on the lower frequencies, I speak for you??

I think that that last paragraph in the book summed up the basis of the novel. Ellison tried to show us that in the end, we will all come to realize that were are just as invisible as the next man. But that is not a bad thing, because it is the invisible man that speaks for us. c

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