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PDF version of The Invisible Man by Herbert George Wells. Apple, Android and To read the whole book, please download the full eBook PDF. If a preview. This book is available for free download in a number of formats - including epub, pdf, azw, mobi and more. You can also read the full text online using our. Visit for a complete, updated list of titles. Ellison's Invisible Man By Durthy A. Washington IN THIS BOOK □ Learn about the Life and Background.

Which is, of course, rewarded by the whites: after he graduates, the narrator gets a briefcase and a scholarship from the leaders of his town. We forgot to mention two things, though. And second, the final thing he has to do to get the scholarship is the least academic thing you can think of: fight a humiliating blindfolded battle royal. He even hopes to one day be able to work for the head of the school, Mr. And one day in his junior year, he gets a strange chance to prove his worth: he is chosen to drive Mr.

First of all, by chance, they end up at the cabin of Jim Trueblood, who, supposedly in his sleep, impregnated both his wife and his daughter. Upon hearing this, Mr. Afterward, even less surprisingly, he has trouble staying at school: he is kicked out of college by Dr. Bledsoe, who is kind enough to give him some letters of recommendation. Our narrator leaves the hospital unafraid, but wobbly. So, he faints on the streets of Harlem. Fortunately, a kind woman named Mary Rembo takes him under her wing.

During his stay there, he notices a black couple being evicted, and he gives an impromptu speech which stirs up the crowd which then attacks the law enforcement officials. However, he gets into some trouble with a black nationalist called Ras the Exhorter, who believes that the Brotherhood is controlled by whites.

Neither our narrator nor Tod Clifton, a youth leader in the Brotherhood, believe Ras. And then, Tod Clifton is missing. Things go from bad to worse when the narrator witnesses Tod Clifton being shot by a police officer. He asks the Brotherhood for help regarding his funeral but basically ends up organizing it himself. So as to escape his men, he downloads a hat and a pair of sunglasses. All in all, a Jack-of-all-trades who has sacrificed his own identity to adapt to the white society.

After a brief scuffle, the narrator manages to escape and ends up falling down an underground coal bunker. Two white men seal him there to force him to think over his stance — and the story comes back to where we started. The novel ends with a sentence as memorable as the opening paragraph: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you? Like this summary?

Click To Tweet Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.

Click To Tweet I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now I've tried to articulate exactly what I felt to be the truth.

No one was satisfied. Click To Tweet I feel the need to reaffirm all of it, the whole unhappy territory and all the things loved and unloveable in it, for it is all part of me.

At the Golden Day, the veterans are equally in the dark as they try desperately to find some sense of pride and dignity in their wasted, empty lives. Similarly, arriving at the Golden Day, the narrator expects to download whiskey for Norton, but is relentlessly drawn into the lives of the veterans and forced to witness the brutal attack on Supercargo.

These two chapters also advance the theme of reality versus illusion, as things are never quite what they appear to be. And if they need mental and physical therapy, why are they going to a bar? Although these seem like logical, legitimate questions, Ellison reveals that the veterans are not part of a logical, legitimate society. Although they are indeed war veterans, they are also veterans of the race war.

Thus, their wounds are not physical, but psychological. Deprived of the opportunity to practice their skills and forced to live in a segregated society that refuses to reward their accomplishments or acknowledge their achievements, the veterans have social responsibility without social equality. The Golden Day represents a microcosm of American society from a black perspective, and the shell-shocked veterans represent black men unable to function in the real world as a result of the brutal treatment received at the hands of racist whites.

Here again, Ellison merges fantasy and reality as the vets share their true-to-life stories. Recalling the atrocious behavior towards black World War I veterans, some returned to the States to face extreme hostility for daring to think that their military service earned them the right to equal treatment under the law.

The hostilities led to the lynchings of hundreds of African Americans, many of them soldiers still in uniform. The lynchings culminated in the violent Red Summer of , with race riots erupting around the country, especially in major cities such as Detroit and Chicago. Supercargo not only literally carries his human cargo—the vets—from the hospital to the Golden Day each week; he also symbolizes the collective psychological burden or cargo guilt, shame, pain, humiliation of black men, which is why he invokes so much hatred.

The scene in which Supercargo is stretched out on the bar with his hands across his chest like a dead man underscores his role as the scapegoat sacrificed for the sins of his people.

Invested with power by whites, who rely on him to keep the vets under control, Supercargo also represents the white power structure. Consequently, the vets, who are unable to directly attack their white oppressors, vent their pain and frustration on Supercargo, who is beaten possibly to death when they finally get their hands on him.

In Chapter 6, the vet is escorted by Crenshaw, a new attendant. The similarities between Supercargo and Tatlock, the blindfolded boxing match winner, are striking. Both are large, physically imposing men, and both are tokens singled out by whites to keep blacks in their place. Their role is much like that of the black plantation overseer who was often hated more than the slaveholder and who—because of his extreme selfhatred—was often excessively cruel and brutal.

The mechanical man imagery, first introduced in Chapter 2 when Trueblood imagines himself as the man inside the clock, is also important. Rather than being depicted as human beings, individuals are referred to as robots and cogs in the machine.

Thomas Jefferson American statesman — , third president of the United States — , drew up the Declaration of Independence. Chapters 5—6 39 Chapters 5—6 Summary Attending chapel, the narrator hears Rev.

Barbee, a blind preacher from Chicago, deliver a powerful sermon about the Founder and his vision for the college. Overcome with emotion, the narrator leaves early to prepare for his meeting with Dr. Barbee built him up to be. That evening, after Bledsoe reveals his greedy, selfserving, and opportunistic character to the narrator, lecturing him on the politics of race and power, Bledsoe expels the narrator.

Grateful for his assistance, the narrator accepts the letters and places them in his briefcase along with his high school diploma. Bledsoe perpetuates the myth of white supremacy by educating his students to stay in their place, subservient to whites. Barbee and Dr. Bledsoe are similar in some ways. See Character Analyses. But while Rev. Barbee is physically blind and cannot see things as they are, Dr. Bledsoe is emotionally blind and simply refuses to see, which is far more debilitating.

Bledsoe and Barbee allude to the two sides of a renowned historical figure: Booker T. Praised by some as a powerful leader and educator, Washington was condemned by others—such as the famous black scholar and educator W. Bledsoe reveals, through his sermon, that he once idolized the Founder in the same way the narrator idolizes Bledsoe until he discovers his true character. But unlike Trueblood—who remains true to his blood people —Bledsoe betrays his people.

During his fateful meeting with Bledsoe, the narrator learns some valuable lessons concerning the politics of race and power.

In light of Rev. Along with men such as Booker T. Chapters 5—6 41 human beings instead of brutes ideally suited for working in the fields and performing other types of hard, menial labor. Key images in these two chapters include the surreal image of Rev. The role of religion, the power of sermonic language with its drama, biblical imagery, and emphatic repetition, and the impact of the black church on the black community, are also significant.

Although Ellison focuses on the importance of the church, through Rev. Bledsoe, playing the role of the college gatekeeper, jealously guards his position. Afraid that someone like the narrator—whom he sees as a potential threat—will undermine his authority and challenge the status quo, Bledsoe gets rid of him immediately. Glossary vespers evening prayer. His name has come to symbolize the journey from rags to riches.

Aristotle ancient Greek philosopher, pupil of Plato; noted for works on logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, etc.

Mother Hubbards full, loose gowns for women, patterned after the costume worn by Mother Hubbard, a character in a nursery rhyme. Chapters 7—9 43 Chapters 7—9 Summary Leaving college on a bus headed for New York, the narrator meets the vet from the Golden Day, who is being transferred to St.

The vet reminisces about his first trip north to Chicago and speculates about the exciting new things the narrator is bound to experience in New York.

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He also tells the narrator that he hoped for a transfer to Washington, D. As the bus reaches its next stop and they go their separate ways, he gives the narrator some last-minute advice about surviving in New York. Arriving in New York, the narrator takes the subway to Harlem, where he is amazed to see so many black people.

He is especially surprised to see an angry black man with a West Indian accent addressing a group of black men in the street without being arrested. Over the next several days, the narrator distributes six of the letters from Dr.

Bledsoe, only to meet with polite but firm refusals. Worried about his lack of a job, the narrator decides to change his tactics: He writes a letter to Mr. Emerson, requesting an appointment and explaining that he has a message from Dr.

He also writes a letter to Mr. Norton offering his services. After three days, he is disappointed by the complete lack of replies, but resolves to remain optimistic, even though his money is almost gone.

The next morning, he feels confident that his luck has changed when he receives a letter from Mr. On his way to meet with Mr. Emerson, the narrator encounters an old man singing a familiar blues song and pushing a cart filled with discarded blueprints.

Although the narrator is at first alarmed by the cartman, whose nonsensical riddles and rhymes remind him of the vet at the Golden Day, he gradually begins to relax and recognizes some of the rhymes as songs from his childhood. Finally arriving at Mr. Aware of the shock his revelation has on the narrator, young Mr. Emerson first offers him a job as his valet and then offers to get him a job at Liberty Paints, but the narrator refuses both offers.

Emboldened by rage, he calls Liberty Paints and is surprised to be offered an interview. That night, his dreams of revenge make it hard for him to sleep. Traveling from the South to the North South Carolina to New York , the narrator traces the path of millions of blacks who left the South in droves to seek a new life in the North during the Great Migration —45 , headed for cities like Chicago, Detroit, and New York. In fact, the only thing that sustains him is the thought of returning to the campus as soon as he earns enough money to continue his education and gained Dr.

Instead, he worries that the vet may become violent and resents being forced to sit with him and Crenshaw in the Jim Crow section of the bus.

Only when he discovers the contents of Dr. At this point, the narrator has not yet discovered that even though he has infinitely more freedom than he had in the South, the Northern version of covert racism is just as devastating as the overt racism of the South. His first instinct is to fall back on religion symbolized by the Gideon Bible on his nightstand , but he rejects that notion, deciding that because it reminds him of home, it will only make him homesick.

Next, he considers reading the letters, but reasons that by doing so, he would be violating Dr. The name was also a pseudonym adopted by other singers. Providing a sharp contrast to the cart-man, Mr. Norton, Mr. Suggesting imminent danger and recalling animalistic behaviors in both the battle royal and Golden Day episodes, the jungle imagery is also significant.

Level 5 -The Invisible Man

The relationship between Mr. Emerson and his son who, appears to be homosexual, is important as well. Having experienced the pain of rejection and alienation himself, Mr. Jonah is often represented as the bearer of bad luck.

Chapters 7—9 staccato 47 made up of abrupt, distinct elements or sounds. Totem and Taboo a book by Austrian physician and neurologist Sigmund Freud — , hailed as the founder of psychoanalysis. To retaliate, Brockway rigs the boilers to explode, sending the narrator to the factory hospital. At the hospital, the narrator is subjected to a painful series of electric shocks, which leave him feeling strangely disconnected from his body and unable to express his anger and indignation.

Disoriented and confused, the narrator finds his way back to the subway and returns to Harlem, where he is taken in by a kindly black woman named Mary Rambo, who nurtures him back to health.

Chapters 10—12 49 Commentary Although the Liberty Paint Factory and factory hospital episodes may seem bizarre, they make sense from a historical perspective. One such symbol is the Statue of Liberty, which welcomes immigrants to America, promising freedom, equality, and justice. In like manner, Ellison turns the American bald eagle into the screaming eagle that serves as the logo for the paint factory with its white-is-right philosophy.

Brockway is the proverbial old dog who refuses to learn new tricks. Having been with the company since its inception, he refuses to acknowledge that times have changed.

And, suspecting the narrator attended a secret union meeting, Brockway attacks him—first verbally, then physically— without giving him a chance to explain what happened. Unfortunately, the narrator learns— too late—that he underestimated the old man, who gets his revenge by rigging the explosion.

Bledsoe, who also refuses to listen to him. Bledsoe and Brockway share numerous common characteristics: Both are gatekeepers, fiercely protective of their domain; both use their power to promote their own selfish interests; and both rely on past connections with powerful white men to safeguard their positions.

Before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of , all public facilities in the U. Unlike white patients, who would expect to find kind, sympathetic doctors and nurses prepared to tend to their wounds and relieve their pain, black patients would understandably feel vulnerable at the thought of being at the mercy of white doctors and nurses. As an educated black man, the narrator is not oblivious to the animosity of the white medical establishment toward blacks.

He is undoubtedly aware of cases such as that of world-renowned surgeon, scientist, and educator Charles Richard Drew — The pioneer of blood plasma preservation, Dr. Drew established the first successful blood plasma bank. In , while on his way to a medical convention at Tuskegee Institute, Dr. Drew was fatally injured in a car accident. Denied treatment at a nearby white hospital, he was refused the blood transfusion that might have saved his life.

Government to determine the effects of untreated syphilis on the human body. In both Chapter 11 Critical Commentaries: Chapters 10—12 51 and the short story, Ellison draws some profound parallels between the hospital and the bar. Like the Golden Day in Chapter 3, the factory hospital has undergone numerous transformations. In the social hierarchy of black America, the bar, which serves as a refuge and sanctuary from the white world, is more important than the hospital, which is simply an extension of the violent and racist white world.

The Golden Day plays a vital part in helping the vets maintain their sanity, a function that is not provided by the mental health profession. During his confinement to the hospital, the narrator, like the vets, is cast into the role of inmate vs.

Birth imagery interspersed with frequent references to tools and instruments underscores the image of man as machine and the narrator as a macabre creation of Dr. For instance, the narrator who has been repeatedly entranced by music and musical instruments now envisions himself as an instrument an accordion being played by two men who are not musicians, but doctors.

Having lived through the factory hospital nightmare, the narrator has been forced to surrender his illusions. No longer feeling compelled to hide his identity as a Southern black by denying his love for certain foods, the narrator experiences a profound sense of freedom. Pondering the link between food and identity, he imagines exposing Dr.

Continuing on, the narrator comes upon the scene of an eviction. Feeling uncomfortable, the narrator tries to blend into the crowd of bystanders. Oblivious to the pleas of her husband, who has appeared on the scene to comfort her, the woman loudly denounces the men who are literally tearing her home apart. The narrator surveys their meager belongings, which represent a whole lifetime of struggle. As the woman tries to go back into her house to pray, one of the white men tries to stop her and a scuffle ensues, during which the old woman falls and angry bystanders surge forward.

Determined to stop the tension from erupting into violence, the narrator intercedes and pleads for the men to remain calm and to consider the consequences of their actions. Meanwhile, the police arrive and accuse the narrator of interfering with the eviction, but a white girl helps him escape by suggesting that he run across the apartment rooftops.

After narrowly escaping the Critical Commentaries: Chapter 13 53 police, the narrator encounters a man who introduces himself as Brother Jack. After telling the narrator how much he admired his speech at the eviction, Brother Jack invites the narrator to accompany him to a nearby diner. There, Brother Jack invites the narrator to join the Brotherhood. Considering his comment from this perspective, eating yams in public indicates his having overcome his shame at being identified as a Southern Negro, which marks an important turning point in his quest for identity.

Recall, for example, his refusal to order the special of pork chops, grits, eggs, hot biscuits, and coffee in Chapter 9. However, although he has gone from one extreme to the other—first denying, then embracing his cultural heritage—he has not come any closer to establishing his personal identity.

The conversation between the narrator and Brother Jack concerning the eviction of Brother and Sister Provo is another important aspect of this chapter. The women in the eviction scene are also significant. The men are spurred into action by an unidentified West Indian woman, and Sister Provo defies the white men attempting to evict her and her husband. Their actions illustrate the powerful although largely unacknowledged role of black women in the struggle for freedom and equality.

On his arrival, he saw Harlem as a city of dreams, where black girls work at a five-and-dime store and black policemen direct traffic.

After the eviction, he sees Harlem as just another dismal, impoverished black neighborhood. Glossary Nubian a native or inhabitant of Nubia, an ancient kingdom in Northeast Africa. Honey wagons were used before the advent of indoor toilets. The odor also makes him realize that cabbage is probably all Mary can afford, because he is still behind in his rent.

Later, as he lies in bed listening to Mary singing, he resolves to be more responsible and decides to call Brother Jack to discuss his job offer. The narrator is surprised to find that Brother Jack apparently expected his call, because he immediately gives the narrator directions to an address on Lenox Avenue.

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When the narrator arrives at the designated address, a car pulls up to the curb with three men inside, plus Brother Jack, who tells him to get in and informs him that they are going to a party. After a short ride through Central Park, the car stops and the men enter the Chthonian, an exclusive private club, where they are met by a sophisticated woman later identified as Emma.

Brother Jack guides him into a larger, even more lavishly decorated room filled with well-dressed people. The narrator overhears Emma asking Jack if he thinks that the narrator is black enough to be an effective leader. Deeply offended by her remark, the narrator crosses to a nearby window where he remains lost in thought.

Soon the narrator is asked to join a group in the library where he is given a new name and informed that he will be the new Booker T. In the midst of the celebration, a belligerent drunk demands that the narrator sing an old Negro spiritual. After numerous apologies Emma asks the narrator to dance, and the party resumes.

He bangs on the pipes with the bank, it shatters, and he frantically tries to hide the broken pieces and gather up the coins. But when Mary knocks on the door and tells him to come to the kitchen for breakfast, he hastily stuffs the pieces into his coat pocket, planning to get rid of them on the way downtown.

The Invisible Man

Realizing that he has no choice but to speak to Mary, he goes into the kitchen and tries to give her a hundred-dollar bill, which she at first refuses to accept. Suddenly, the kitchen is invaded by a horde of roaches that have been shaken loose from the steam pipes. After helping Mary kill the roaches and clean up the kitchen, he leaves to go shopping for his new clothes and to find his new apartment. Along the way, he tries unsuccessfully to get rid of the broken bank, but finally decides to add it to the items in his briefcase.

Later that evening, Brother Jack picks him up and takes him to an old sports arena in Harlem, the site of the Brotherhood rally where he is to give his first speech. Across the dressing room, tacked to a wall, a faded photograph of a former boxing champion blinded in the ring reminds the narrator of the stories his grandfather told him about the boxer.

Back in his apartment, the narrator reflects on his speech and realizes that he spoke spontaneously and from the heart. Woodridge, on the problem of Stephen Daedalus. He also reflects on how his rejection and betrayal by Dr. Bledsoe and Mr. Norton brought him to the Brotherhood.

As he drifts off to sleep, he imagines the leadership potential available to him through the Brotherhood and resolves to take full advantage of his new position. Eager to be a leader, the narrator meekly accepts his new name, his new apartment, and his proposed role as the new Booker T. The numerous references to surprise underscore the uncertainty and danger that await the narrator as he plunges into the underworld of the Brotherhood.

This uncertainty is characterized by his initial visit to the Chthonian, where nothing is what it appears to be, beginning with the door knocker that turns out to be a door bell. The scene in which the narrator attempts to give Mary the hundred-dollar bill is also important because it recalls the scene in Chapter 2 in which the narrator resents the fact that Mr. Norton gives Jim Trueblood a hundred-dollar bill.

Viewed from another perspective, the bank also represents the racist symbols and images that still pervade our culture, perpetuating the destructive Sambo stereotype. Normally, a black man walking down the streets of Harlem early in the morning would be virtually invisible, yet this particular morning, the narrator is highly visible. While he is simply trying to throw away some trash, his actions are perceived as being much more significant by two bystanders who interpret what he does based on their perception of who he is.

Even though both share his racial identity, neither identifies with him on the basis of race, choosing instead to see him as an outsider on the basis of regional, cultural, and class differences, thus shattering the image of the homogeneous, one-dimensional black community.

Glossary dunning demanding payment of a debt. Sun Yat-sen Chinese political and revolutionary leader — In the novel, Stephen represents the individual struggling against society to realize himself as an artist.

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man: A Casebook

Stephen believes his name provides a spiritual link to Daedalus, the mythological Greek inventor who created the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete, in which he and his son Icarus eventually found themselves imprisoned. Expecting to go to the Chthonian, the narrator is disappointed when Brother Jack takes him to the El Toro Bar instead. Brother Jack takes the narrator to visit his new office, and introduces him to Brother Tarp, an elderly black man who seems genuinely glad to meet the narrator.

The next morning at a Brotherhood meeting, the narrator is introduced to the other members of the Brotherhood as the new spokesman. Later, realizing that Brother Clifton is not interested in power or politics, he begins to relax and the two young men discuss their strategies for working with the Harlem community. Leaving the Brotherhood meeting, Brother Clifton and the narrator are attacked by a group of black men led by Ras the Exhorter.

The narrator sees Ras strike Brother Clifton and raise his knife threateningly, then lower it and walk away. Furious at this accusation, Brother Clifton turns on Ras and knocks him out. Brother Clifton and the narrator walk away, determined to ignore Ras and rededicate themselves to the Brotherhood. Commentary The events in this chapter create a growing sense of danger and foreboding, prompting the reader to feel that things are out of place and contrary to expectations.

To begin with, Brother Jack calls the narrator at midnight the witching hour and takes him not to the Chthonian, but to the El Toro Critical Commentaries: At this point, the narrator is indeed being taken for a ride or, to put it another way, he is being played for a fool and fed a lot of bull. Another example of things being unexpected and out of place are the wall panels behind the bar. Expected to hold a mirror, they display bullfight scenes and a gored matador.

The scene also raises several issues that the narrator might question, especially after spending four months studying logic and scientific rhetoric. What kind of a spokesman will he be if he will be told what he can and cannot say?

Why, if he is to speak for the people of Harlem, did Brother Jack move him to an apartment outside his district? Most of all, he might consider the irony of having a white man assign him to be a spokesman for black people. But once again, the narrator fails to ask questions that might help him make sense of this situation. The encounter that the narrator and Brother Clifton have with Ras and his men places their position in a new perspective, for while both men see themselves as leaders of the black community, Ras and his men see them as sellouts and Uncle Toms.

In the black community, a sellout is a black person who accepts money or other personal gain by working for the system the white power structure. This chapter raises the question: Is the narrator a sellout, or is he simply accepting a job that will enable him to earn a living by using his public speaking skills? A convincing case could probably be made for either side. However, by focusing purely on race, his speech loses power.

So far, the narrator suffered his most bitter betrayals at the hands of his black brothers such as Lucius Brockway and Dr. The Brotherhood supposedly advocates nonviolence and focuses on integration and cooperation as the only means by which people—both black and white—will be able to work together for the good of society as a whole, especially the poor and oppressed.

Both emphasize group vs. Ellison undoubtedly knew that W. Another important development in Chapter 17 concerns the relationship between the narrator and Brother Clifton.

Although Tod Clifton is the darker brother, he has distinctly European features. He also has already attained a leadership role within the Brotherhood. But like Brother Clifton, he sees the Brotherhood as a supportive organization that will help him hone his leadership skills and achieve his goal of becoming a renowned and respected speaker. On a more practical level, he also sees his work with the Brotherhood as a means of economic survival and an opportunity for a new life, as symbolized by his new clothes, new job, and new apartment, all of which he owes to the Brotherhood.

Chapter 17 63 However, because both men are keenly aware that they have had to sacrifice many of their personal and cultural values to work for the Brotherhood, their encounter with Ras—who reminds them of their identity and responsibility to their African ancestors and the black community—is unsettling, especially for Brother Clifton.

Another key character introduced in this chapter is Brother Tarp, who gives the narrator a portrait of Frederick Douglass, indicating his faith in the narrator, whom he sees as having the potential to become another Douglass.

A former slave, Douglass —95 went on to become one of the most famous nineteenth-century orators and statesmen. By giving the narrator a portrait of Douglass for his office, Brother Tarp demonstrates his faith in him as a potential leader of the black community.

His act also indicates that he views the narrator not as another Booker T. Washington, who many blacks felt compromised his values to gain the financial and political support of influential whites, but as another Douglass, a man who freed himself from the mental and physical bonds of slavery to become a renowned and respected spokesman for freedom and equality.

Bledsoe go through to be accepted into the system.

The narrator is, in fact, becoming Dr. Bledsoe, because the Brotherhood wants to make him the new Booker T. Glossary sectarianism narrow-minded, limited, parochial thinking. Uncle Tom a term of contempt for a black whose behavior toward whites is regarded as fawning or servile. When the narrator objects to his remark, Brother Wrestrum cautions him that there are people in the Brotherhood who are only interested in using the organization for their own gain.

He points out that wearing Brotherhood emblems could prevent such incidents. The narrator receives a call from a magazine, requesting an interview. Partly to spite Brother Wrestrum, he agrees to give the interview. About two weeks later, the narrator is shocked to learn that Brother Wrestrum has filed charges against him, accusing him of being an opportunist.

Angry and humiliated, the narrator leaves Harlem without saying goodbye to anyone. Chapters 18—19 65 The following day, at a meeting of the Brotherhood, the narrator learns that Brother Tod Clifton is missing. It keeps him running. Obviously aware of the potential power play between Brother Clifton and the narrator, he could be trying to ingratiate himself with the narrator, whom he perceives as being the man with the most power, by casting suspicion on Brother Clifton.

When his plan fails and the narrator virtually ignores him, Brother Wrestrum decides to get even by openly challenging his leadership and authority. Because he himself has not achieved this equity, this situation is filled with irony.

Despite his reckless behavior, the narrator is becoming somewhat less self-centered and possibly even more compassionate. Learning that Brother Tod Clifton is missing, the narrator immediately forgets about his own problems.

Glossary Dick Tracy comic strip popular during the s and 50s that featured a private detective who always got his suspect. Paul Robeson American actor and singer — who was the first black actor to play Othello on Broadway with a white supporting cast.

Without a permit to sell the dolls, Clifton is arrested by a white policeman, who harasses and abuses him. When Clifton strikes back, the policeman shoots and kills Clifton. Determined to pay tribute to his friend, the narrator organizes a lavish funeral and eulogizes. For the first time, he becomes emotionally involved with the fate of another human being as he wrestles with his conscience, wondering if there was something he could have said or done to prevent this tragedy.

As he recalls his feelings of humiliation and disgust at seeing Brother Clifton selling the Sambo dolls, he may also begin to recall the respect, admiration, and genuine friendship he felt for Brother Clifton prior to seeing him sell the degrading dolls.

Recall that Jim Trueblood faced a similar moral dilemma as he struggled to reconcile the financial and material needs of his family with his desire to save face in the eyes of his community.

Because the narrator knew Brother Clifton personally, he knows his behavior was totally out of sync with his true character. He also knows that Brother Clifton was not only intelligent but street smart.

He knew that by striking a white policeman, he was virtually committing suicide. Plagued by these troubling thoughts, the narrator realizes that he must make a crucial decision: In both cases, he was appalled by the behavior of a black man. But this time, the narrator identifies with Brother Clifton as a true blood brother and fellow black man who has been subjected to the same hatred and prejudice he himself has experienced. Chapters 20—21 69 could possibly have prompted Tod Clifton to not only sell the degrading dolls, but to strike a white policeman.

He sees that selling the dolls was not a spiteful or ignorant act designed to humiliate the black community. It was a desperate, self-destructive act aimed at expressing his own self-hatred at selling his people by being part of an organization that exploits blacks, using them only to advance its own social goals and seeing them as nothing more than dolls or puppets.

It was the deliberate act of a man who has come to a crossroads in his life and realizes he has nothing more to lose.

Realizing that Ras was right in accusing him of selling his people in exchange for power and recognition from whites, he decides that he can no longer deal with the pressure of living a lie. Reaching the breaking point, he explodes—much like the boiler in the basement of the Liberty Paint Factory—and vents his mental and emotional anguish by selling the dolls, ultimately choosing death over life in a culture that denies him the right to be a man.

Unlike Dr. Bledsoe and Rev. Barbee, who seem to have come to terms with their roles as token leaders, Brother Clifton refuses to be a puppet. Determined to live his own life, he decides that a life in which he has no control over his own mind and body is not worth living.

His fierce desire for freedom is perhaps best expressed in the words of Patrick Henry: He is also determined not to allow the policeman who killed Brother Clifton to be the one to write his history. By honoring his brother with a lavish funeral, he hopes to establish his legacy. The narrator realizes that he can function outside the Brotherhood and no longer looks to the organization for his identity or values. His new vision of history as a matter of chance and luck much like the image of the roulette wheel described by one of the vets at the Golden Day sets him even farther apart from the Brotherhood, with its focus on history as progress.

During the Depression his Peace Mission provided food and housing to thousands of people in Harlem and throughout the U. The narrator tries in vain to make the Brotherhood see that the issue is not whether Brother Clifton was a traitor, but that he was an innocent, unarmed man shot down in cold blood by a policeman. At the end of the meeting, Brother Jack instructs the narrator to report to Brother Hambro for additional training. Although the narrator intends to follow his instructions, he realizes that the Brotherhood is not at all the visionary organization he once thought it was.

Yet he still feels that the group at least gives some meaning to his life. The three men focus on their differences surrounding four key issues: Finally, he asserts that Brother Clifton deserved a funeral and points out that the key issue is not whether he was a traitor, but that he was shot down by a policeman because he was black.

Brother Jack argues that the narrator had no right to organize the funeral on his own, that he was not hired to think, and that he has no right to exercise his personal responsibility because his ultimate responsibility is to the group. His argument echoes Dr. To emphasize his point, Brother Tobitt reveals that he is married to a black woman, a revelation that he thinks will cause the narrator to see him as someone who understands black people.

In both instances, the loss of these artificial elements suggests the loss of the false sense of power associated with the two men. Ironically, while Brother Jack symbolically loses his vision, the narrator begins to see more clearly.

In previous chapters, even when others pointed things out, the narrator took an inordinate amount of time to finally see what went wrong.

But listening to Brother Jack and Brother Tobitt, the narrator not only hears what they have to say, he also asks probing questions and begins to see the meaning behind their words. Through his cleverness and cunning, Odysseus outwits the Cyclops and blinds him, enabling his men to escape. If Brother Jack is the Cyclops, the narrator is cast as Odysseus, trying to defeat the monster and find his way home.

Brutus Marcus Junius Brutus c. Roman statesman and general; one of the conspirators who murdered Julius Caesar.

Ras sees the narrator, and the two argue briefly. Instead of running, the narrator downloads himself a pair of dark glasses. From then on, he is mistaken for someone named Rinehart, especially when he adds a wide-brimmed hat to his disguise. The narrator marvels at how a hat and dark glasses enable him to hide in plain sight. He also decides to exploit his newfound invisibility. Remembering his appointment with Brother Hambro, the narrator heads for Manhattan. When he expresses his concern about Ras and his men gaining more control in Harlem, Brother Hambro informs him that there is nothing the Brotherhood can do, as they have decided that the people of the Harlem community must be sacrificed.

The narrator protests, pointing out that the Brotherhood has promised to stand by the people of Harlem. Walking the streets, the narrator realizes that he has been part of a sellout: He promised his people support, only to betray them.

Recalling that Emma was Critical Commentaries: Commentary Rinehart, whom the reader never actually meets in the novel, is the ultimate trickster and master of disguise.

Simply by donning dark glasses and a hat, he easily assumes and discards his multiple identities as preacher, lover, numbers runner, and pimp. In effect, he becomes invisible at will, which enables him to mingle with society and go about his business without feeling compelled to explain his actions to anyone. Compared to all the other characters in the novel whose painful experiences have distorted their perceptions of reality, Rinehart seems virtually unscathed and unaffected by his environment because instead of allowing others to define him and shape his reality, he defines himself and creates his own reality.

If Rinehart appears to be especially devious and deceptive, in reality, he has simply learned to adapt to his environment. People in general play numerous roles throughout their lives—sometimes sisters, brothers, friends, students, workers, etc. When the narrator finally removes his metaphorical blindfold and stops seeing his reflection in the eyes of others, he becomes Rinehart and regains his sense of self.

By disguising himself as Rinehart, the narrator uses his invisibility to his advantage. He realizes that just as he never noticed the zootsuiters or the men in dark glasses before, people never really noticed him before. Instead, they recognized him only by his clothes, but not by his features. When people look at him, they see what they expect to see. Who he is, is not as important as who people think he is. This revelation causes the narrator to reflect on his past, recognizing that he is the sum total of his experiences, and that it is his experiences—not the acceptance or rejection of others—that shape his identity.

After being thrown into a fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar for refusing to worship a golden idol, the three Christians emerged unharmed.

He turns in a fake list of new members, amazed at how easily the Brotherhood accepts his lies. Giving up on his plan to pursue Emma to get information about the Brotherhood, he pursues Sybil, the wife of a Brotherhood member, instead.

But while he thinks he is using Sybil to meet his needs, she uses him to fulfill her sexual fantasy: Following their abortive attempt to have an affair, the narrator puts Sybil in a cab and takes a bus back to Harlem. After getting off the bus and running toward the Harlem neighborhood, the narrator passes underneath a bridge and is forced to use his briefcase as a shield to protect himself from the droppings of pigeons perched on the bridge.

Sybil, the forbidden fruit, represents the taboo of the white female symbolized by several of the white women in the novel: Similarly, representing a strict taboo, the narrator is especially appealing to Sybil.

But because Sybil sees the narrator as a racial stereotype, he becomes disinterested. In this instance, Sybil has obviously lied to her husband George, but she does tell the narrator the truth about her rape fantasies involving black men, whom she perceives primarily as sexual animals. An important aspect of this chapter as well as the previous two chapters is the emphasis on heat.

The grotesque scene in which the narrator, walking underneath the bridge, is splattered by bird droppings, recalls an earlier scene in which the narrator watches the mockingbirds on his beloved college campus soil the statue of the Founder, symbolizing the white stain on black history. Here, the narrator, who has finally realized that his experiences shape his identity and that—like his grandfather—he is a part of history, suffers the same fate as the Founder.

Chapter 24 79 Glossary a crazy Thurber cartoon allusion to James Thurber — , American short-story writer and cartoonist. Seeing that one of the men carrying the safe has been killed, the startled narrator realizes his wound could have been fatal.

Carrying a large cloth bag, Scofield urges the narrator to go with him. Running from the burning building, the narrator loses his briefcase again and runs back into the flames to retrieve it.

He continues running and suddenly finds himself surrounded by seven hanging dummies, which he at first mistakes for human bodies. Resolving to remain in his cellar, stripped of his illusions, the narrator sees his life with renewed vision and clarity. Connecting the image of the beer-drinking woman with that of the honey wagon in Chapter 13, creates a surprisingly powerful new image: Despite his comic approach, however, Ellison depicts a very real sense of the mob mentality.

Like the boiler at the Liberty Paint factory, the people have been under so much pressure, they are ready to explode. Any spark will ignite the flames. Their behavior is self-destructive: Instead of channeling their anger and frustration and targeting the real enemy—the white power structure—they burn down their own homes. The Harlem riot recalls the riot at the Golden Day: Norton, the vets attack Supercargo. Sister Provo pleads with the city officials not to evict her and her husband.

The key images in this chapter mirror the battle royal in Chapter 1: People behave like animals and blindfolded boys fight a boxing match. This last chapter also reverses some of the images introduced in Chapter 1.

Instead of brass tokens advertising brand-name cars, the looters seek out brand-name foods and apparel Wilson bacon, Dobbs hats, Budweiser beer, etc. Finally, instead of a naked blonde with a flag tatoo, this chapter presents the absurd image of black boys in blonde wigs.

Advancing the theme of chaos and confusion, this chapter merges several scenes from preceding chapters into the melee of the riot. During the riot, Dupre uses his sack to carry loot. Chapter 25 83 It is only when he finally rids himself of his past by burning the items in his briefcase that he is able to become whole in his hole and envision a life without illusion. Glossary Men who seemed to rise up out of the sidewalks.

Having had time to reflect on his life, he has decided that reality exists in the mind. He has also achieved a clarity of vision that enables him to see things from a different perspective.

After getting to know him on a more personal level as a unique individual instead of as a nameless, anonymous black man, the reasons behind his ramblings are understandable. Despite the torture he has been forced to endure, Critical Commentaries: Epilogue 85 he is still stupidly alive, which suggests that living in a world that denies an individual basic human rights is a fate worse than death.

Norton in the subway is key. Concerning his reasons for writing down his story, the narrator realizes that the process of writing helped him work through the pain, diffuse the hate, and regain his capacity to love.

Once more, he reflects on the experiences of his grandfather who, even as a slave, never doubted his humanity. In the final analysis, the narrator suggests that even though his experiences as a black man in white America are unique, his experiences have much in common with the experiences of all human beings.

He suggests that even though he speaks on his own behalf, perhaps on some level, he speaks for each of us. Whether the narrator is seen as hero or victim depends on whether he is seen literally living underground or as metaphorically living in his subconscious—whether to believe that he is hibernating or whether to assume that he is merely hiding. Rendered invisible due to distortion and lack of documentation in U.

The extent to which the narrator internalized this debilitating myth is best illustrated in Chapter 5. In this way, he perpetuates the racist stereotypes of whites who see blacks as inferior, subhuman creatures. Although he thinks of himself as educated, the narrator has simply accepted and internalized the ideas and values taught to him by others, which he accepts without question. Unable to question or to seek his own answers to complex issues and lacking a sense of identity or a definitive value system, the narrator does not have a clear sense of who he is and how he fits into society, nor does he possess the intellectual curiosity required to ask the right questions.

Similarly, the narrator has not developed a clear self-image, nor does he have the self-confidence to challenge authority figures such as Bledsoe and Norton, whom he perceives to be in control of his fate. Throughout the novel, the narrator grows from blind ignorance to enlightened awareness as he begins to listen with an open mind, to question, and to draw connections between the experiences of others and his own life. Therefore, the grandfather continues to guide his grandson throughout his painful and perilous journey towards enlightenment.

Norton Mr. Norton represents the white Northern liberal who considers it his duty to civilize blacks.

The covert Northern racist disguised as a liberal philanthropist is even more dangerous than the overt Southern racist who makes no attempt to hide his hatred of blacks. Both promote and perpetuate negative behavior among blacks—from the Bledsoes to the Truebloods—rewarding them for playing the nigger. Bledsoe and Trueblood are separated by class, but they share the common bond of race.

Both their names evoke images of blood: Hebert Bledsoe Instead of preserving and protecting the legacy of the Founder, Dr. Rather than enlightening his students and providing them with an education that prepares them to contribute to society and function as educated adults in the real world, Bledsoe perpetuates the myth of white supremacy.

Thus, pondering the statue of the Founder lifting the veil, the narrator suspects that Bledsoe is, in fact, lowering the veil and ensuring that his students remain in the dark. Although he appears to be everything that Rev. Barbee is not, Bledsoe is a mirror image of Rev.

Seeing Rev. Barbee on stage in the auditorium for the first time, the narrator has a hard time distinguishing between the two men, both of whom are fat, bald, and ugly. Considering the controversies that surrounded Booker T. Like Trueblood, Bledsoe is a blues singer and storyteller, but he is also an egotist and a power-hungry opportunist. To survive, he learned to play the game at the expense of killing his soul and betraying his people. But the narrator refuses to listen to Bledsoe and threatens to expose him.

Realizing he can no longer control him, Bledsoe devises a devious plot to get rid of the narrator before he can cause trouble for the school. Barbee is a blind poet and storyteller who keeps the past alive through songs and stories.

Barbee is the down-home Southern preacher transplanted to the North. Although he hails from Chicago, Barbee has not lost touch with his southern roots. Barbee preaches his sermon about the Founder in the college auditorium with all the fervor and flair of the traditional black preacher addressing his congregation from the pulpit of a small Southern church where the service was often followed by a barbecue: An old woman, overwhelmed by emotion, spontaneously responds to the sermon, but quickly becomes silent, realizing that her outburst is out of place in this modern, progressive and seemingly enlightened congregation.

It also symbolizes those who, like Bledsoe, have become spiritually blind, counting on their god of material wealth and power to save them. Barbee represents the type of Southern black preacher the students have been taught to despise by people like Dr.

Ironically, he commands their respect because he is from Chicago. Jim Trueblood Although to think of him as the ignorant, illiterate sharecropper, committing incest with his teenage daughter, is the greater tendency, Jim Trueblood is neither ignorant nor illiterate, as illustrated by the meticulous plan he devises to keep from being forced to uproot his family, give up his home, and abandon his land.

Despite his behavior, Trueblood emerges as a complex, dignified man who deserves our respect and compassion. Before he became the subject of vicious gossip, Trueblood was known as a hard worker and a blues singer.

Once he has worked through this painful healing process, Trueblood regains his ability to sing. With his soul cleansed and his spirit renewed, Trueblood returns to his family, seeks their forgiveness, and works to Character Analyses 93 make the best of their tragic situation.

After carefully considering his options and weighing the consequences, Trueblood refuses to allow his wife and daughter to obtain abortions, concluding that killing two innocent babies would only compound his sin.

Thus, Trueblood demonstrates that his first priority is caring for his family, not seeking the approval of a judgmental community. Trueblood is also a shrewd man who understands the workings of the white power structure, manipulating it to his advantage. After receiving his eviction notice from the college, he refuses to uproot his family and give up his home. Realizing that he has no chance of openly challenging Bledsoe, Trueblood appeals to his boss, Mr. Buchanan, who writes a letter to Sheriff Barbour on his behalf, describing his situation.

Although Trueblood is initially shocked to discover that his pain and suffering is a source of entertainment for the white men, he quickly learns to take advantage, using their morbid fascination with his sexual behavior for his own benefit.

Once he learns that he can profit from his pain, Trueblood embellishes his story with detail and dialogue, creating the elaborate version he shares with Norton.

Although Trueblood is a victim, he is also a trickster, gaining some power over whites and using it to his own advantage.

Subjected to constant pressure with no release, he finally explodes much like the overloaded boiler in the Liberty Paint Factory. But Ras is also a visionary and a prophet. He is the only black man in the novel who chooses and then changes his own name.

Instead of seeing him as a general and leader, the inclination is to dismiss him as a black Don Quixote, fighting windmills. Garvey, a Jamaican immigrant, believed that blacks would never achieve social, political, and economic equality in the United States. Aided by whites, who agreed with his vision of a separate black nation, Garvey founded the Black Star shipping line and prepared to transport blacks back to Africa. Before he was able to carry out his plan, he was indicted for mail fraud and imprisoned for two years, and then deported to Jamaica.

Although Garvey continued his racial advocacy, he was unable to recapture the momentum of his project, which ultimately failed. Mary is a strong black woman who has learned to survive the violence and corruption of the city by relying on her inner resources.

Seeing him simply as a fellow human being who needs help, Mary takes him into her home, cooks for him, and nurses him back to health.

During this time, the narrator sees Mary as the saintly mother figure, referring to her as his anchor and guide, and appreciating her support and generosity. But after he meets Brother Jack and begins to work for the Brotherhood, he sees Mary through different eyes. She becomes a source of shame and embarrassment for him, prompting him to try to shatter her image, as symbolized by his futile attempt to discard the cast-iron bank. The bank, like Mary, represents a part of his heritage he wants to forget.

Although he initially appreciates her cooking, he now complains of his steady diet of cabbage. At first he sees her home as a sanctuary and source of solace and comfort, but later he notices the noise, poverty, and filth surrounding her, as indicated by the banging on the pipes, the smell of cabbage, and the invasion of roaches. He finally leaves Mary without even saying goodbye, confident that she will survive, having undoubtedly gone through similar experiences with other black men.

Mary is a survivor who represents the courage and dignity of the black woman. Although she is not based on any specific historical character, she is a woman in the tradition of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, or Mary McCloud Bethune.

Although the narrator first considers him a competitor, he soon realizes that Tod is not interested in political power; he sincerely wants to help the youth of Harlem break out of their limited reality and realize their unlimited potential. Because Tod is one of the most charismatic characters in the novel, it is difficult to reconcile his act of selling Sambo dolls and his violent death with his true character.

Although he wants to dismiss Ras as a fanatic rabblerouser, Tod knows that Ras speaks the truth, which causes him to question his effectiveness with his youth group. When Ras accuses him of selling his people, he realizes that he has sold out to the Brotherhood.

Unable to reconcile his idealistic vision with his reality and unwilling to compromise his ideals, he gives up, choosing death rather than life without hope, respect, or dignity. Similarly, while Ras wants to dismiss Tod as an opportunist who has sold out to the system, he recognizes him as a black prince and spares his life.

Brother Jack In the character of Brother Jack, Ellison merges the trickster of black folklore with the trickery and deceptiveness of whites toward blacks.Unable to reconcile his idealistic vision with his reality and unwilling to compromise his ideals, he gives up, choosing death rather than life without hope, respect, or dignity.

At last he 'Spirits,' said Mrs Hall. Edna harbors sexual fantasies about white men and playfully propositions Mr. At the height of his rage he insults the elderly man with rebukes that his grandfather taught him.

Seven signifies completeness and perfection: I'd like to Hall's legs. He seems rather to exist in the nightmarish fantasy of the white American mind as a phantom that the white mind seeks unceasingly, by means both crude and subtle, to lay. All their personal belongings and furniture are being piled in the street by white marshals.

He was just bad.