The Values of the Invisible Man

I awoke, there was a crash on the upper deck. I heard a thunderous
from my head above. I ran up the stairs and what I saw devastated me.
small wooden boat was completely coated in billowy flames.

“Help, help, somebody please!”
I slowly moved towards the sound being careful to dodge flames as much
possible. The smoke was choking me. I could see a faint outline of a
across the deck. It was Tom, my lifelong friend and companion. He was
completely surrounded by the bright flames.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

“Tom are you OK!!”
“Yeah, but the fire has me surrounded!”
“Tom jump overboard, hurry!”
“Do it quick, hurry!”
I hit the surprisingly cold water with a crash. I swam through the sea
illuminated by the flames to find Tom.

“You okay buddy?”
“Yeah the flames were everywhere and I wasn’t sure what to do.”
“Well you did the right thing Tom.”
Finally he was beside me riding over the waves. We found a large board
supported our weight and we began to circle the destroyed vessel. I
began to
feel weary from inhaling so much smoke. Everything was going dark and
long I couldn’t hold on.

I don’t know when I woke up. All I could feel was rugged sand all over
body and in my mouth. Land, we had washed ashore! Then I remembered
what had happened last night. I began to look for Tom.

“Tom, Tom, Where are you!!”
There was no sign of him anywhere. Then I saw the footprints in the
sand. I
knew they were his because I had never seen a bigger pair of feet in my
life. They were going towards the lofty trees ahead of me that lined
boundary of the seaside. I followed them to see him lying against an
tree trunk. I went around to confront him and discovered he was passed
Blood ran across his face and down his sandy chest.

“He must have hit a rock when the waves crashed him against the shore?”
I began to panic, I hurried to find something to cover his wound. I
took a
portion of his torn pants and wrapped his forehead up in it. He awoke
with a
scream of pain and looked around frantically trying to figure out what
going on.

“Tom are you OK?”
“Umm ya!”
“We were washed ashore and you probably hit your head on a rock.”
“Well it sure does hurt but……but, I guess I’m all right.”
We finally calmed down and we began to explore and figure out where we
This wasn’t exactly how I planned on spending my vacation in the
I thought we would be taking it easy cruising across the rolling waves
two weeks. We had no idea where we were, and we had no idea how long we
going to be here. There seemed to be no signs of life so we ventured
following a small stream of fresh water. The few palm trees began to
form an
amazing rain forest as we traveled deeper and deeper in to this
place. We came to a small clear pond, it was a spring.

“Here Tom, this water is just what you need for your cut”
“Great, I can wash out my cut, it really hurts!”
“Here” I said as I splashed his forehead with the cold fresh water.

I knelt down and began to drink the cool clear water. It soothed my
and sore throat.

We decided we needed something like a shelter to stay in. We carried
and leaves to a group of trees near the pond and before long we had a
semi-efficient lean-to. I was cold after leaving the sun into the cool
forest so I tried building a fire. After patiently striking a piece of
against my pocket knife a flame shot up from the pile of brush. Before
I was as warm as sweating dog on a hot summer day.

The next morning we began to venture inward. We were cautious not to
lost. By scratching trees and drawing in the ground we made sure we
find our way back again. It was amazing, there was birds singing,
swinging in trees and wildlife everywhere. The rain forest was so much
cooler then on the beach. The sun couldn’t shine down with the ferocity
would anywhere else.

“Did it just get hot, or is it just me?”
“Well it’s not you it just got hotter Tom!”
“Why is that?”
“Really, to tell you the truth I don’t know.”
We walked for two hours, we were hot, tired and stiff. I rested to get

The pain was astounding. The water was boiling hot!! I looked down at
hand and saw blisters and bloody skin.

“What happened to your hands!!”
“I….I don’t know, I just placed my hand in the water and…….”
Tom took a closer look and yelled “Phew, this water stinks like rotten
He looked at me then at the stream. With a puzzled look on his face he
a tree branch and stuck it in the pool of water. Before our eyes we
as it bubbled and the stick disintegrated before our astonished eyes.
water was acid, but why? Ah! Yes! it all made sense, the heat, the
acid, we
were on a volcanic island. We stood alarmed for quite a while until I
a sound that made my turn pale.

A growl, a flesh hungry growl from behind my back. An animal ready to
me limb from limb. I turned in an instant and backed up to Tom’s side.
was a panther, as black as death itself.

I whispered “Tom, What should we do.”
“I don’t know but he sure looks hungry”
“Okay, when I say go lets run as fast as we possibly can.
We hurried but, it was the kind of death run where you know you were
The panther was right behind us, it’s claws tearing up our footprints.
wrong move and he would be ripping us up.

He ran us on to a cliff, we turned to face him while he slowly walked
up to
us. I looked into his eyes and I could see victory. He knew he had won
he wanted us to know. He shifted his legs getting ready for the pounce.
Suddenly there was a great blast, it shook with tremendous force! I
a small tree beside me and Tom grabbed my leg I looked up ready to see
pale evil eyes of the panther but I saw nothing. Where was he? The
has slowed and I looked over the edge. He had fallen, his corpse lay
motionless on the rocky ground below. Tom quickly averted my attention
the sky, smoke rose above the trees nearby and a thick smell of acid
was in
the air. The ground breaking open and now lava spewed from the islands
insides. It was burning with remarkable speed, worst of all it was
straight for us!!
“Run, Tom run!”
I ran as fast as I possibly could towards the beaches. Tom was just
ahead of
me. I ran as fast as I could but the pain was intense, my hand was
more than a bloody limb. I was slowing as Tom ran faster. Suddenly I
myself on the ground. A sharp pain ran across my side and down my leg.
tried to move it but I couldn’t. I began to choke, I felt blood run
down my
face and on to the hot shaking ground.

“Tom, Tom, help me…help!!!”
“Don’t worry I will get you outta of here!”
He ran up and grabbed me, threw me over his shoulder and carried me
shore. I almost passed out as the agonizing pain engulfed me. I forced
myself to stay alert and alive. He trudged on as the wind blew the
heat across our bodies. It was getting hotter and the smoke of burning
forest began to cover the mysterious island.

Finally we reached the beach and he placed me under a palm tree while
began to make a raft. He gathered driftwood, vines and branches
The heat was getting worse and the lava was getting closer. The faint
crackling of fire could be heard, the same evil, laughing crackling of
flames that destroyed our boat and caused this disaster only a little
ago. He finished using all the supplies from around us and the raft he
made had to do. He carried it to the water and then carried me to it.
balanced it against the thundering waves as I dragged myself on it. I
got on
and then he waited until the next wave passed before he jumped on.
warning I was under water. Salt filled my throat as pain ripped through
body as I was tossed by the waves like a rag doll. I felt a tug on my
as Tom hauled me toward the surface. I coughed and spit trying to clear
throat of salt and sand. Tom placed me on the raft and again tried to
on. Once again I was thrown into the water as soon as the waves hit. I
no way to hold on, or to swim. With one arm and one leg I was at the
of mother nature. We returned to shore and I knew we were running out

“This is not gonna work, what can we do?”
“I don’t know Tom!”
I saw the panic in Tom’s eyes and I knew what I had to do. With tear
eyes I said, “Tom, leave without me!”
“I can’t leave you, theres no way that will happen.”
There was no way I would be able to stay on the raft and even if I did
knew I was dying. I asked him to put me under a palm tree facing the
forest because I knew I couldn’t bear to watch him leave.

“Bye…bye Tom.”
“Bye, buddy.”
I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he slowly walked away
I couldn’t take it and I began to cry, tears streamed down my face. I
it was the right thing to do but it was so hard. Eventually the waves
overpowered his sobbing screams. I was left, alone, to die a slow
death. I
would wait until the lava emerged from the dark rain forest and take my
life. There was nothing I could do.

Then I died. I will always remember this endless love of two devoted
and the fight for each other. I hope Tom is living a happy life and
some day
has a family of his own. His time will come to join me but I hope it
for a long time. He got a great gift, life and I hope nobody ever takes
away from him. In some ways I am living through him, his dreams, his
thoughts and in his memories. That life will never die and it can never
taken away today or tomorrow.

It must have been around eleven o’clock in the morning when I awoke
from a
stuffy and uncomfortable sleep, in the back of a moving mini-van. My
was dry, my nose was sore, and my eyes itched from sleep crust. A huge
escaped from my mouth as I tried to stretch my aching limbs. As I was
stretching out, I accidentally kicked my little brother Sam in the
head. So
much for peaceful sleep, he woke up in a foul mood. He must have
that I kicked him on purpose because he punched me as hard as he could
in my

I got really mad at him I yelled ” Why did you do that, I kicked you by
accident?” I punched him in his chest.

Now he was really mad, his screaming and his curses were pretty
He said something like ” Punk why did you hit me?”
I said ” You hit me first, call me another punk and I’ll hit you
again!” We
probably sounded like two babbling drunks because we were half sleep
using slurred speech.

I was about to belt him one more for getting in my face but that was
he yelled “Auntie, Ron hit me!”
I said in a whinny little voice ” He started it auntie, I didn’t do
“Knock it off you two, can’t you see that I am trying to drive?” “Keep
before you wake up your grandmother and your sisters”, said Aunt
Florence as
she gripped the wheel with one hand and turned to give us that cold ”
mess with me today stare”. That kept us quiet, we did not utter another
after that.

As for not waking everybody else up, it was too late for that. Brenda,
is the youngest, awoke first. She was being pretty quiet but the
would not last. She wanted to stop and use the bathroom but instead of
waiting for auntie to find a rest stop she thought it would be better
to nag
everyone’s ears off. Her nagging and whining woke Remy up; she is the

The first thing that came out of her mouth was ” I’m hungry let’s stop
McDonalds” She was not too happy when Aunt Florence told her to look
for a
ham sandwich in the cooler because we weren’t stopping until we got to
Alabama. It was quiet again for a few minutes. Then Remy decided to
wake up
grandma to see if she could get her to convince auntie to stop at
“McDonalds”. That was not really the best idea because grandma was not
in a
good mood either she had been driving most of the night and had gotten
a couple hours of sleep.

Everyone was feeling the effects of being on the road. As a matter of
everyone was getting pretty sick of each other. Lately all we did was
It was a pretty tough year for the family and this trip was supposed to
that needed escape from all the stress brought on by everyday life in
city. This trip was also sort of a business thing too. My grandfather’s
brother had recently died and left him some land out in the country. We
going to finalize all of the legal business that was involved with the
and the will. The plan was to build a cabin on the land and use it for
family vacation spot. I sat in the back seat and imagined how red dirt
roads, green grass, and trees, big trees, would look from the view in
new family cabin. I wanted to swim in a real creek instead of the city
I wanted to relax in the shade with a huge cup of cold lemonade. I
wanted to
play in the hot sun and see the stars light up the sky at night. In
it is hard to see stars because the big houses and the massive
buildings and
skyscrapers blocked the sky. I wanted a change of pace and scenery. I
to be free of cares and worries. I wanted to be happy. It seemed as
I had forgotten how that felt. I was looking forward to spending the
rest of
my summer in a country paradise. When I saw that huge sign which read
“Welcome to Alabama” I was more excited than could be imagined.

Everything was as I had imagined it. Alabama was so beautiful. It was
as if
a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders because I began to
instantly relax. I could see that everyone else was happy too. It was a
little strange because the dirt roads were really red. I thought that
was some kind of tall tale. People wore straw hats, overalls, and jeans
big, shiny belt buckles. It was different from the hustle and bustle of
Detroit. Everyone seemed very laid back. Everything seemed to move at a
snails pace, which was fine for me. I thought that nothing would be
able to
spoil my mood. It seemed that finally I would get something that I
Too bad that wasn’t the case. Actually this was the worst summer
that I have ever had.

Utah, Alabama is a small place. You probably won’t be able to find it
most maps. That’s probably a good thing because you probably wouldn’t
to go there, especially if you were black. To most of the whites in
being black was like being cursed with an incurable disease. That was a
concept that I could not grasp at the time, being black never felt like
bad thing to me.

I am from a predominantly black city where blacks did not have to
strange, hateful stares and racial slurs like spook and nigger. At
that was how I remembered it back then. If it weren’t for television I
probably wouldn’t have known that there were white people around. The
the police chief, most of the city counsel, my principal, and all of my
teachers were black. Everyone in my neighbor hood was black and a white
was rarely ever seen.

I was sheltered to a certain extent because I thought hatred,
ignorance, and
racism was a thing of the past. In school we learned about Rosa Parks
Martin Luther King Jr. but I was lead to believe that I would never be
called a nigger or be refused service in a restaurant. I was not even
aware that I was a minority. I had heard the word a couple of times but
was not sure of its meaning. I would soon know the feeling of being out
numbered and for a brief moment in my life I would feel like a nigger.

My grandfather was against the idea of taking a trip to Alabama. He had
discussed this with Grandma Mattie and Aunt Florence numerous times in
private. We did not find out about the trip until one Sunday at family
dinner. That is where we discussed the week’s events and other family
Aunt Florence saw this as the perfect opportunity to ask grandpa about
land and rally for our support.

She brought the subject up sort of casually. She said “Daddy what are
going to do with all of that land uncle John left you down in Alabama?”
Poppa was really irritated by her question. It was evident by the look
his face. He answered her in an angry, booming voice. I had never heard
anyone talk to auntie like that before.

He said ” What did I tell you about that land in Alabama? I told you to
it for me didn’t I? Why are you trying to make me look like the bad guy
not letting you go? Whites don’t want us down in Alabama and you know
it! Go
down there if you want! I ain’t stoppin you, but I ain’t comin wit ya
either. Cause the next honkey dat calls me a nigga will regret it! I
believe that I am getting disrespected in my own house!”
He got up from the table and left the house. I have never seen him so
He didn’t come back for a couple of hours and he didn’t speak to us
until we came back from the trip. I wish that he would have. I wish he
explained to me exactly why he was so mad. After that incident I
what a honkey was but no one would tell me.

Grandpa always said that he left Alabama because he heard that Chrysler
hiring and because there was a chance for a new beginning in Detroit.
insisted that he loved it down south. It wasn’t until later that he
tell me the real reason why he left Alabama. A man named Floyd Walton
originally owned the land he inherited. He allowed our family to
on the land after the civil war. Our family roots traced back to
Alabama. My
ancestors were his slaves. That’s where we got the last name Walton. My
grandfather was given the name Floyd just like the master. Grandpa told
horror stories of mob violence and public humiliations. He even
described in
graphic detail a gruesome lynching. These are things that he personally
witnessed while living in Alabama. He said that he was constantly
scared for
his life. He said that he had never felt like less of a man. This is
real reason why he left and he vowed never to go back.

Aunt Florence and grandma knew all of this but they wanted to go
anyway. I
think that they may have been in denial about the racial situation in
south. Whatever it was, nothing was going to change their minds they
just as stubborn as grandpa. Besides that all of us kids wanted to go
Papa was outnumbered and he knew it. It was final we packed the
mini-van up
and headed for Alabama without another thought. At the time I felt that
grandpa was being unreasonable. If I had known how serious this race
really was I probably would have stayed home.

Anyway it was too late for all of that now. We had just crossed the
boarder and we had to stop somewhere. We had to stop and let Brenda
her. Remy would not stop whining about stopping at McDonalds. I wanted
stretch my legs and I had to go to the bathroom too. It was about
degrees in the shade that day. My mouth was as dry as one of my
history lectures. I wanted ice-cold lemonade. Grandma and Sam wanted to
and eat too. Everybody was too impatient to look for a Mc Donalds so we
stopped at the first place we saw.

This place wasn’t worthy of the title restaurant. It was shabby and it
barely sanitary from where I was standing. It sat on a dirt lot right
off of
the highway. I really didn’t care because I was glad to finally get out
that stuffy mini-van. The place was packed it seemed to be a popular
spot. I
could smell T-bone steak and barbecue ribs it smelled so good that it
my mouth water, I was ready to eat. I was really in a good mood now.

As we piled out of the van I could notice that people were staring at
funny. I felt as though their gazes would burn a hole through my chest.
There were two guys who were talking about us. I was trying not to pay
much attention to them but I heard one of the men say
“Damn where did them niggers come from cause they sure ain’t from round
Those feelings of excitement and anticipation quickly wore off. We kept
walking toward the diner anyway. I felt that this was probably the
walk that I had ever taken through a parking lot. We stayed close to
other and walked at a slow, unsure pace. The dust seemed to settle in
air with every step we took. It was at that moment that I had begun to
like a “minority”. The only black faces in that parking lot were our
own. We
were defiantly outnumbered and I could tell that these people did not
us around. I felt as if I was alone in a world filled with people who
me just because of the color of my skin. Reality set in like the impact
of a
speeding car against a brick wall. Everything that grandpa had said was
true! We had not been in Alabama for any more than twenty minutes and
we had
already been called niggers. I was shocked at the nerve of these
What ever happened to southern hospitality? I could not believe what I

A little boy who must not have been any older than twelve kept
over and over “Go away niggers!” “Go away niggers!”
I felt like I was in the “Twilight Zone” This couldn’t really be
to me! We finally got to the door. It was too late to turn back now. We
at the point of no return. I mean how would we have looked if we had
around and ran for the mini-van and pulled off? When we stepped through
door it was like walking into a country western movie. We were the bad
who did not belong in the saloon. In the movie the bad guy always wore
black. In This situation we were covered in natural blackness. I like
call it my permanent tan. Just like in the movie the bad guys walk
the door and everyone stops what they are doing just to look at them. I
swear that every person in that diner stopped what he or she was doing
look at us. Even the cook and a few dishwashers came from the back of
restaurant to see what was going on. I can remember that my hunger had
suddenly disappeared. I was getting a stomachache and I was ready to

Any way we decided to take a seat and get some food. We sat in a booth
to a family of four. As soon as we took a seat these people got up from
their seats in disgust and left their food at the table. We must have
there in that booth for about twenty five to thirty minutes before a
waitress would even approach our table. While we were waiting for
service I
could hear people whispering and talking about us.

The waitress who came over to our table was very rude to us. She was
fat and
ugly just like a pig. She felt that we were not good enough for, “Hello
can I get for you, sorry for that long wait”. Instead the lady said to
us in
the rudest way possible, ” You niggers got to go, we don’t serve
here.” She snorted when she talked just like a pig. I was still in
shock. I
wondered how someone that ugly could talk negatively to anyone. I just
wanted to leave and find a place to cry or something. I probably have
felt as low as I did sitting there in the middle of that diner.

Aunt Florence wasn’t about to put up with any more of the disrespect.
flew off the handle and she was steaming mad. She said to the woman “We
been sitting here for thirty minutes while you passed us up to serve
who came in after us. Where is the manager I want to see the fucking
A guy, who was sitting at a table from across the room said, “Bob don’t
to talk to no nigger”
Auntie told the man to shove it. I never heard her curse before I could
believe what was going on. She got up from the booth and got in the
waitress’s face. Grandma was saying to her that she thought that we
go. Auntie was too mad to listen to reason. She was a stubborn as a
mule and
she was not going to budge until we got service.

Bob the manager threatened to call the police on us. He was a fat
bald headed man with bad teeth. His face was red and he seemed quite
to see us still there. He said,” I thought Mary already asked you
niggers to
go, we don’t want you hear.”
” You can’t tell anyone to leave. All you can do is take my fucking
Then she turned to me and said, “Ron you said that you wanted a steak
I was like ” Uh, I don’t know, can’t we just leave, they don’t want us
here?” I was scared that we were going to get arrested.

Everyone else wanted to leave except for Sam. He was rooting auntie on
was like, ” Yeah auntie you tell him, we ain’t nobodys nigger. I was
the big
brother but that day he was defiantly more brave than I was.

After about twenty more minutes of arguing back and forth we gave up
left the diner. We piled back in the mini-van and drove off. We decided
find a hotel and drive back to Detroit in the morning. We ended up
the land to someone instead of keeping it. It took me a long time to
over the emotional trauma of this incident. Sometimes I still think
back on
it just to remind myself that racism still exists in America.

In the Prologue, the narrator listens specifically to Armstrongs
(What Did
I Do to Be So) Black and Blue. This track relates directly to
Invisible Man
on a thematic level, as it represents one of jazzs earliest attempts
make an open commentary on the subject of racism. Fats Waller
wrote the song for a musical comedy in which a dark-skinned black woman
would sing it as a lament, ruing her lighter-skinned lovers loss of
interest in her. Later, however, Armstrong transformed the piece into a
direct commentary on the hardships faced by blacks in a racist white
society. Like Invisible Man, the songs lyrics emphasize the conflict
between the singer/speakers inner feelings and the outer identity
on him by society. The narrator listens to Armstrong sing that he feels
white inside and that my only sin / is in my skin. By placing this
in the background of his story without directly commenting on it,
provides subtle reinforcement for the novels central tension between
racism against blacks and the black struggle for individuality.

The Invisible Man
The novel, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison explores the issue of life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through the main character. In
the novel, Invisible Man, the main character is not giving a name. In
our paper we will refer to him as the Protagonist. Ellison explores
how unalienable rights cannot be obtained without freedom from the
obstacles in life especially from one’s own fears. In the novel
Invisible Man, several major characters affect the Protagonist. One of
the major characters is Dr. Bledsoe, who is the president of the
school. Dr. Bledsoe had a major effect on the main character, because
the Protagonist idolizes him. “He was every thing that I hope to be,”
(Ellison 99), but the Dr. Bledsoe degrades him when we says “Why, the
dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to
please a white man is to tell him a lie” (Emerson 137) and calls him a
Nigger. In addition, the Protagonist grandfather had a major effect on
him. The ! Protagonist’s grandfather last word, “Live in the Lions
mouth” (Ellison 16) has a lasting effect on him throughout most of the
novel. Finally and most important, Ras the Destroyer, whom the
Protagonist fears whom along with Dr. Bledsoe in a separate
encountering calls him “a educated fool” (Ellison 140). The first
encounter of the Protagonist own fears is introduce when his
grandfather’ s tells the Protagonist to go against the white man by
“overcome ’em with yeses” (Emerson 16). These words haunts the
Protagonist when he is kicked out getting kicked out of college. When
Dr. Bledsoe kicks him out of college, the Protagonist reflects on his
grandfather last words “undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to
death^”(Emerson 16). For a moment, the Protagonist wonders if his
grandfather might be right. However, due to the Protagonist fear of
failure, the Protagonist doubts his grandfather wise words, because he
does not want to believe that his role in life is to undermine the
white man. So, the Protagonist convinces himself that the Dr. Bledsoe
and the school is right and goes to New York. The second encounter, in
which the Protagonist reveals his fear and not being accepted, is in
the Battle Royal. The Battle Royal is a boxing match involving nine
other African American boys who have to fight until the last man is
standing. The protagonist endures this degrading act as ploy, so that
he can be able to read his speech, in the hope of impressing the elite
white men of the town. The Protagonist fear of not being looked upon
as an uneducated cause him to be the subject of a brutal beating, which
knocks him out and torturous electrical shocking. In addition, the
Protagonist fear of not being acceptance is his denial of being a
“Negro”. The Protagonist encounter with Dr. Bledsoe exemplifies his
denial. The Protagonist looks up to Dr. Bledsoe as a model of what he
wants to be. However, when Dr. Bledsoe called the Protagonist an
“educated fool” (Ellison 140) and an Nigger; the Protagonist ignores it
because of his denial of being a Nigger, but under normal circumstances
a person would get angry and upset. Dr. Bledsoe name is also a play on
word, because when he calls the Protagonist a Nigger, he bleeds his
people so. Dr. Bledsoe bleeding of the Protagonist shows his disregard
for his own people. The Protagonist fears of not being accepted is
also evident when he continues to believe that he would get back into
the college even after getting kicked out. The third situation that
the Protagonist encounters is with Ras the Destroyer. Ras character is
one of a total opposite of the Protagonist. Ras’s goal is the
destruction of the white man. As the Protagonist, enter a brotherhood
of both white and black people, he finds himself at odds with Ras, who
refuses to have a brotherhood with white people. Although the
protagonist is able to avoid any real conflicts with Ras, he is called
an “educated fool” (Ellison 292) once again this time by Ras, when the
Protagonist comes to the aid of his friend Clifton. The Protagonist
holds his education in high esteem and is in a complete state of shock,
by being called a “educated fool” once again. However, the greatest
impact that Ras has on the Protagonist is at the end of the Novel.

This occurs when the Protagonist is attacked by Ras. The Protagonist
calls out that “They want this to happen”. The Protagonist refers this
statement to the brotherhood, which is not a brotherhood at all!
But it is too late. Ras is intent on killing the Protagonist. When
the Protagonist finally escapes, the Protagonist is desperate and wants
to hide. In the end, this leads him to a hole where the Protagonist
feels that he is invisible, which we find him in the beginning. To
conclude, the Protagonist realized even being underground away from
society, his mind would not let him rest. He states that “I’m an
invisible man and it placed me in a hole- or showed me the hole I was
in^.”(Ellison Epilogue). This is an effective metaphor, because that
is where life left him. As stated by a German Philosopher, Friedrich
Nietzsche, “A snake that does not shed its skin will perish”. The
Protagonist realized he must shed his metaphorical skin of fear and
denial of being a Negro in order to obtain his unalienable which are
rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom he
obtains through shedding his skin is that he knows he is free to be
himself without fearing not being accepted.

1. Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. New York, Vintage Books
2. Latu, Susan. School Web Site. 1998. Phillips,
3. Elizabeth C. “Monarch Notes” Ralph Ellison Invisible Man. New York,
Chapter 3 Summary:
The narrator brings Mr. Norton to the Golden Day bar because going into
would take too long. Along the way, the narrator drives past the
(mental patients) on their way to the bar as well. He convinces the
to let him in by convincing them that Norton is an army general.
Annoyed at
Trueblood and since the bar is an irreputable establishment, the
leaves Norton in the car and tries to get the whisky for him. Halley
not allow him to take it outside. The narrator returns to the car to
Norton unconscious and, afraid he is dying, he runs back inside for
When he brings Norton inside, the vets surround Norton, calling him
and jerking his head around. Halley pushed them aside and pours whiskey
his throat, reviving the old man. He stares around at the odd
collection of
patients who begin to talk to him wildly until Supercargo, their
shouts at them to stop.

Without his uniform on and having drunk too much, Supercargo’s
authority is
rebuked and the patients charge him, throwing the place into an uproar.
Bottles flying, they attack Supercargo, knocking him out despite
yelling. Trying to escape the chaos, the narrator attempts to find
whom has become separated from him. The narrator finds Norton
again and does not know what to do until a short fat man helps him
Norton upstairs and finds him a bed to lie upon. The prostitutes who
been upstairs stand around him, musing over his features. They are
out by the vet, who claims he used to be a doctor.

As Norton comes to, the narrator is frozen with fear. The vet explains
Norton what has happened and successfully diagnoses Norton while the
narrator is out of the room. The vet and Norton become engaged in a
conversation, concerning the vet’s life after being enrolled in the
As Norton begins to feel better, one of the women returns and the
becomes anxious to leave. The vet continues to talk in an increasingly
esoteric manner, refuting Norton’s idea of destiny. Angered, Norton and
narrator finally exit the Golden Day and drive back to the campus.

It is not a surprise that the Golden Day bar and brothel is on the
side of the railroad tracks. The Golden Day, on this day in particular,
is a
microcosm of the world gone crazy. The vets are all institutionalized
represent men who have held a myriad of professions. The way in which
narrator often feels at the brothel is mirrored in his later feelings
in New
York, namely that he is part of some game in which he cannot grasp the
rules. It is also not a surprise then that he will meet one of the most
lucid characters of the book in the brothel before he leaves.

The narrator notices that Norton has passed out and his lips fall back
showing his teeth. With all of the craziness which occurs inside the
Day, Ellison makes a point to illuminate Mr. Norton as an animal as
when he mentions the “amazingly animal-like teeth” which are normally
behind his lips and his words. This case of synecdoche is echoed by Mr.
Norton’s involvement in the patients’ fight with Supercargo. The
narrator is
surprised to hear him yell out. Furthermore, once upstairs with the vet
doctor, the women who are watching relate his organs to animal organs,
slowly adding pieces together over the narrative which make Norton very
animalistic indeed.

The vet doctor gives interesting insights into the reality which the
narrator will refuse, in its totality, until the end of the novel.
episode of storytelling takes place and again reflects upon later
Mention of the great white father will come up later with Brother Jack.
Moreover, the Vet speaks of his struggle against and for life, being a
doctor, but is punished for saving it and realizes that his
contribution was
worthless. He predicts rightly that the narrator will later feel
repressing his emotions like a mechanical man. In response, Norton
calls him

Chapter 4 Summary:
Driving back, the narrator is filled with fear over how Dr. Bledsoe
react to the events which occurred on the drive. Visions of Tatlock and
Trueblood flash through his mind, along with the notion that the campus
the ideals of the Founder are the only identity he has. He drops Mr.
at his room with orders to bring Bledsoe to him. Facing Bledsoe, the
man he
most admires, he is forced to explain that Norton had a fainting spell.
Bledsoe is appalled that the narrator took Norton back to the poor
curtly stating that he should have better sense than to show any white
person what they wish him not to see.

Dr. Bledsoe’s demeanor changes completely upon seeing Norton, taking on
aspects of a concerned and appeasing grandfather. He apologizes
for the narrator’s actions, refusing to listen to Norton’s and the
narrator’s protests. The narrator is told to go to his dorm room and
there until chapel. Norton promises to explain.

Back in his room, he continues to mull over the day, confounded by
lecture in the car. He is called to Bledsoe later in the day and
expects to
find him in Norton’s room. Norton explains that Bledsoe can be found in
office after chapel and that he believes Bledsoe understood the
rationalization he gave to him about the drive.

Driving back through the gates of the school with Mr. Norton, the
recognizes that the school suddenly looks as threatening and divisive
as the
highway’s white dividing line, an image we picked up on earlier. With
simile, Ellison sets up the college as presenting pretense in much the
manner as the white line the narrator had hitherto been following. In
cyclical fashion, the narrator makes an error with the car entering the
gates as he had leaving . He senses a loss of control over the car.
Symbolically, as the burp before predicted the disastrous trip, the
loss of
control he feels on returning and the linking of the college’s green
with pretense predicts his inability to live as a part of the college
longer. He is losing control of his identity, as the narrator mentions
explicitly. Denouncing the men they ran into during the drive, the
leaves himself on the white dividing line, neither accepted by Dr.
and the college or the men who speak without superficiality such as
Trueblood or at the Golden Day. In these highly hyperbolic and
terms, the narrator momentarily sees the school turn into a world of
overwhelming whiteness. The narrator is incapable of understanding what
Bledsoe means when he refers to the pretense he has set up, by only
and giving the white people what he wanted them to have. An image that
relates to this is the fish tank positioned outside of Mr. Norton’s
containing a feudal castle and a fish which is frozen no matter how
fast his
fins move. Ellison’s thematic race is alluded to as the narrator is
stuck in a hierarchy he does not understand, and will spend the rest of
book trying to escape from without actually progressing.

The narrator is separated symbolically again from the college after
returning to his dorm room. By contrasting the perky roommate with his
hopeful girlfriend, the narrator brings up that she will probably
pregnant. Though seemingly a negative, that symbol of fertility differs
greatly with the mood his roommate leaves the narrator in. His life
seems to
be departing from him, as he notices the departing voices took more
their noise with them down the hall. The knock which preceeds his
with Dr. Bledsoe follows directly after and is rendered by a freshman.
youth and freshness also sets up a good comparison against the narrator
whose experience has so quickly rotted.

Chapter 5 Summary:
Hearing vespers, the narrator moves across the campus along with the
body toward the chapel where the visitors would be gathered. Tormented
the thought of his meeting with Bledsoe which will follow, he moves in
daze, suffocated by the spring in the air, and sits in the chapel,
remembering. He recalls the hymns they have sung that the visitors
love, and
the speeches which have been given illuminating them to their world and
the roots which have given rise to it. He remembers giving important
speeches to lead the student body. His thoughts fall into and around
the old
woman, the guardian of the girls, who has sat in on all these events.
muses on how he aimed his feelings and his speeches toward characters
her. She had spoken of his promise. And, she would be the one he felt
most shame toward on the night after the drive. His focus shifts next
to Dr.
Bledsoe, who sits solemnly up front with the trustees but is felt more
the students. His reputation is untarnished and his path to the top has
given him power.

The ceremonies begin with a young girl singing, followed by a prayer
more singing. Drawing himself back to the events, the narrator realizes
a guest has started to speak with amazing command. Reverend Barbee, the
speaker, resembles a little Buddha and speaks about the Founder and the
dream of the college in such a moving manner that the narrator feels
and more in love with the college and what it stands for than ever
It is an epic that Barbee tells: of the Founder escaping slavery, and
of the
tearful tragic end which he comes to, witnessed by Barbee and Bledsoe.
On a
trip to spread his message, the Founder falls during a moving speech
and is
hurried away. On the train ride which follows, the men can feel the
Founder’s spirit weakening. After his death, Bledsoe becomes the new
paying homage to his friend and picking up where he had left off.
ends with deep praise of the school and the progress which Bledsoe has
in continuing the Founder’s mission.

Barbee himself falls over at the end of his speech and the narrator
that he is blind. Following his departure from the stage, more songs
sung as the narrator sits in great turmoil. He fears that after that
astonishing speech, Bledsoe will be even more harsh with him for
putting the
school in even the slightest of dangers.

Feminine imagery surfaces again in the beginning of this chapter as the
narrator describes the campus’s atmosphere of budding springtime:
with a “feminine fluting”. The looming moon shadowing the landscape
the imagery into another light with its red glare which he compares to
white man’s bloodshot eye. The image has been cracked and distorted.
disturbed aspect of innocence translates into entrapment as the
continues with his illustration. An indirect allusion to the battle
can be understood as he describes the stage where the millionaires have
down to to experience the “flesh and the blood.” The last sentence of
paragraph is trapped within parentheses, rhetorically asking if anyone
doubt the authority on this stage. We are asked immediately to doubt
freedom of reality implied within the preceding words. The narrator
that he too has stridden this stage as a student leader, yet remarking
his words had always echoed back at him.

The event at chapel which affects the narrator most is the speech of
Reverend Barbee. Here the reader is faced with yet another example of
storytelling within storytelling. Not only is it a story though, it is
which has been told many times before him. And this story too has
echoes of
the how the narrator’s life will proceed, touching on points such as an
underriding conspiracy, a funeral procession, and the journey
Another clue of this man falling into a pattern of the narrator’s life
the dark-glasses the reverend “hides” behind, a notion which will
surface in
later chapters. Barbee is described as Buddha-like, but what is most
surprising to the narrator about his physical qualities is the shock
that he
is blind. Thus pretense is suggested; Barbee can orally illustrate a
for others but cannot see himself. He is hiding his blindness behind
glasses while creating an illusion for the audience to see into and

Chapter 6 Summary:
The narrator slowly and regretfully makes his way to Bledsoe’s office
the chapel services. The president responds to him listlessly,
him for not only going to the quarters with Mr. Norton but also taking
inside of the Golden Day. Mockingly, he brings up the incident with
Trueblood as well, criticizing the narrator for giving into every want
Norton. By this point, he can no longer hold in his anger and he
yelling at the narrator for his foolishness. Showing his naivete, the
narrator is amazed when he hears that Bledsoe would have expected him
find excuses, to lie, instead of stopping in the slums or at a brothel.
Bledsoe demands to know who told the narrator to drive where he did,
shocking the narrator even further. He cries out that he is lying, and
the narrator “nigger,” enraging the narrator by using that word. When
narrator denies lying, Bledsoe reveals that he thinks the vet doctor is
behind the drive and interrogates him regarding the man, noting that he
have to investigate the dangerous patient soon.

Becoming more and more desperate, the narrator attempts to defend
himself by
mentioning how Norton understands how it was beyond his control.
snaps back that it is not Norton’s decision and his understanding
make up for the incredible harm the narrator had caused. He is
determined to
expel the narrator, who threatens that he will tell Norton and fight to
stay. Bledsoe relates that it does not matter who is told, the narrator
not amount to anyone and has no power in comparison to himself. He is
at the
controls and part of the larger set up of government power. He had won
place at the top by years of manipulation, of “playing the nigger” to
and acting tough to others.

Claiming to be impressed by the narrator’s spirit, Bledsoe agrees to
him letters to important friends in New York where he can find a job
then pay his way back in the fall if all goes well. The narrator must
within two days and after thinking over all day, he decides to leave as
early as possible. Humiliated and ashamed, the narrator is outside of
Bledsoe’s office in the morning to retrieve his letters and then
catches the
first bus out of town. Bledsoe warns him to not read the letters, as
employers will be angered if they are tampered with.

Leaving the chapel, the narrator feels immediately different and
from the other students. Bledsoe also sets him apart from others when
he is
chastising his behavior with Mr. Norton by implying that a dumb slave
have had more common sense than he. The hyperbolic lecture continues as
Bledsoe claims that he has ruined the college in a half an hour.
writes that he looked at the narrator as if he had committed the worst
possible crime. Everything about the man is big, his power and his head
notably. He finally feigns sympathy toward the narrator only when the
narrator reacts in a big way, screaming threats at him.

His response though is based more in power, relating that the threats
do him
no harm as no one would believe the narrator against him. By telling
narrator that he does not exist, he is trying to emphasis his size and
over the boy’s. He tells him that “his arms are to short to box” with
The battle royal comes to mind again and the reader can begin to
Bledsoe as a different form of the bully than Tatlock, who was also
giant in
size. Notice too the blood reference in his name, like that of
Except his has a more negative connotation, he has sacrificed much of
himself in order to be inflated to the high status where he must
his size in order to rule. When the narrator leaves the school the next
morning, Bledsoe offers him his hand. The narrator notices that it is
and strangely limp”, a perfect representation for the whole which is

Chapter 7 Summary:
To the narrator’s annoyance, the vet doctor happens to be on the very
bus for the beginning of his trip. The narrator could not help but
blame the vet for his foreshadowing of his misfortune. He would like to
avoid all memories attached to the disastrous day he drove Mr. Norton.
Questioning the narrator, the vet introduces him to the freedom and
dream-like quality of New York. Annoyed at his concentration on women,
especially white women, as the symbol of the freedom he will encounter,
narrator inquires of the vet, only to learn that the vet has been
transferred to Washington. The vet rightly connects his conversation
Norton to the transfer. He begins preaching again to the narrator. He
the white establishment. The vet exits at the first stop, and leaves
narrator with the parting advice to discover the world and leave the
Norton’s of the world alone.

Utterly alone, the narrator’s confidence begins to resurface as the
landscape becomes decidedly northern. He determines to be accommodating
toward his contacts so to represent his school and people well. He
heads to
Harlem upon arriving in New York, more secure in himself and his
The subway ride is his first shock as he is pushed up against a white
who does not appear to notice. Secondly he is greeted with a larger
of black people in Harlem than he expects. Lastly, he encounters a man,
loudly yelling to a crowd. Fearing a riot, the narrator cannot
why the police do nothing. Instead, the police show him to Men’s House
he finds a room.

The vet’s presence on the bus away from the college is an unfortunate
reminder for the narrator but a significant connection by Ellison to
how their fates intertwine, giving credence to the foreshadowing
the vet doctor made at the Golden Day. The narrator is not allowed to
out the memory as he would like and must listen to the vet talk until
first stop. The vet prophetizes even more by speaking of how New York
effect the narrator. His eyes give away his power in foretelling the
narrator’s future. He is continually winking at the narrator and his
twinkle when he relates to the narrator that though he lives a public
he is not actually seen. The play with the visual is in complete
to the blindness that Barbee possessed. Although the narrator has a
appreciation for what Barbee said, more truth lies for him in the
eye of the vet.

Ironically, the seven little sealed envelopes which the narrator is not
allowed to look at make him feel sophisticated and expansive. The
promises raise in him the chance for a positive future along the lines
had always imagined. Yet he is immediately made to feel small and
insignificant in reaching New York. In the subway, he is pressed up
large people who do not notice his presence. Exiting the subway, he
to the story of Jonah in the Old Testament by comparing the experience
being thrown up from the belly of a whale. Jonah is one of the few
in the Bible where a prophet chosen by God is misled in his motives and
often fails in his tasks before he learns the right path. An apt
he overwhelmed is by the city he is sent to. He is lost and the police
to direct him to Men’s House.

Chapter 8 Summary:
The narrator sits in his room taking in his surroundings and musing
over his
life back home. He feels important when thinking about his letters and
decides to plan out his strategy for the next morning. In order to
visit his
contacts, he would have to leave early and be at each office on time.
He is
determined to use this opportunity to become a young and better Dr.
by giving the employers the charming man they would want to hire. On
his way
to his first office in the morning, he notices a number of Black
professionals strutting down the street with leather pouches attached
their wrists and he imagines that their are messengers, chained to a
deal of money.

He makes his way to Mr. Bates’ office, but does not want to go in too
in case the employer does not like to see Negroes early in the morning.
Questioning many other aspects of himself, the narrator has to
himself to go back for the interview. When he enters he finds a lone
secretary who is much more amiable than he expects. She takes the
from him and disappears into another room. She returns to report that
Bates is busy but will contact him. Disappointed, the narrator repeats
episode with several other secretaries during his first days there, not
having better success. He holds onto the letter for Mr. Emerson because
learns he is out of town. When he has not heard from the other men
after a
considerable amount of time, the narrator becomes suspicious of the
secretaries and decides to set up an interview first and then give him
letter when he gets back to town. He also thinks about Mr. Norton,
him a letter asking to meet, hoping that their more intimate
will be beneficial. Norton never responds.

More and more suspicious, the narrator thinks that Norton and Bledsoe
may be
part of a scheme concerning him and the employers, one which he does
know how to manipulate. A western movie cheers him up briefly and a
dream of
his grandfather brings him down. Finally, he receives a letter from Mr.

In accordance with the allusion to the Bible, the only familiar object
narrator finds in his new room is the Bible. It makes him feel
Trying to suppress his old ways and his anger toward Bledsoe, he
more in splitting himself. He mentions he will speak differently in the
north and the south in order to please different people. He
concentrates on
what he used to know and how he does not know now. Also, he continually
stresses over whether what he is wearing or what time he arrives at the
interviews will be satisfactory. His first days in New York are split
well, dropping his letters in the morning and exploring the city during
afternoon. He feels his life must be properly planned out in order to
successful and thus categorizes himself into different parts. His
perfectionism is reflected in the numerous drafts of his letter to Mr.
Norton that he writes before drawing up an immaculate one. The many
of himself are inadequate unless smoothed over and edited many times.
Tellingly, his letter receives no reply.

The narrator’s grandfather makes another appearance in his dreams while
waits expectantly for responses to his sealed envelopes. Already
the letters were received into the proper hands, the dream depresses
him. He
feels disjointed and a member of some unwanted scheme. Not ready to
to these warnings, he is relieved by the response from Mr. Emerson.

Chapter 9 Summary:
Starting out to Mr. Emerson office, the narrator has high hopes. He
along outside and is joined by a zoot-suiter who speaks to him in jive.
Though he understands it little, he is entertained nonetheless. As he
down to breakfast at a diner, he reflects on the manner he must enact,
of vague seriousness to keep people guessing as they did with Bledsoe.
settles on omnipresence as the secret, thinking of how Bledsoe is
always in
his students’ minds.

Entering Emerson’s office, the narrator is deeply impressed by the
luxuriousness of it, remarking that it must be an importing firm. A man
surprises him and takes the letter from him. A few moments later, he
him into an office and asks him questions. The narrator is put on edge
asked if he would consider attending another college and if he had
the letters. The man babbles about Harlem clubs and his father, finally
returning to the point in vague terms, asking the narrator to trust
him. The
narrator gets very angry and wants to given his opportunity to meet
Emerson. The man reveals that Emerson is his father and shows him the
from Bledsoe, which states that the narrator will never be enrolled at
college again, and asks the employers to assist Bledsoe in keeping the
narrator from trying to return. The reasons given to the contacts is
the narrator has gone astray and presents a danger to the delicate
of the college.

Dazed, the narrator goes to leave but is asked by Emerson’s son to keep
letter’s contents a secret. The narrator agrees knowing that no one
believe him. The son mentions a job opening at Liberty Paints and
wishes him
luck. The narrator cannot help but feel betrayed and compares himself
to a
robin picked clean. Deciding to go back to the college and kill Bledsoe
playing him like a fool, he resolves to get any job immediately to fund
revenge. He is told to report to the paint plant the next day.

The narrator meets with a zoot-suiter the next morning when he sets off
his meeting.He is also involved in the race that Grandfather refers to
the narrator is subject to but is resolved to take it at his own pace.
significantly makes the point that he will not be run into the grave
hopes to coast downhill as much as possible. He is resisting the
factors of society against him but the narrator insists that one should
to one path. The man’s speech though is much more rapid than his travel
the narrator cannot keep up with it. All the narrator knows is that he
the sound and speed of it. He remembers it from childhood but cannot
remember it. Racing faster than the man, talking slower, lost to the
memories of their shared past, the narrator has been culturally erased.
belongs to no community and accordingly everything the man says and
hits the narrator off balance. He cannot even decide whether he feels
or disgust” towards the man after he leaves.

The room he enters of Mr. Emerson’s office is like a museum filled with
colors, relics, and tropical animals. The aviary of birds sits near a
window and when the narrator is left to himself in the main office, he
wishes he could examine it but is worried that t may seem
The birds are noticed after a period of silence they begin to rapidly
their wings. It is described as savage. Ellison purposely makes the
both colorful and primitive. The birds flash with life for a moment,
a tune and flapping their colorful wings. But the surge stops and the
narrator is too scared to go see. The symmetry of the situations is
striking. In the white mans’ office he is taking a colored object and
it. The birds can look upon New York from the window and can stretch
wings for an instant, but then are again confined. The narrator stands
frozen across the room, admiring them as through a window but is kept
fear of the same white man to move any closer, thus being caged in
Any diversion or flash of life he might show could result in his
so he sits quietly in his cage and waits for his interview to let him
around the room for a moment.

The facial and bodily expressions of the man who interviews him are
extensively by Ellison. After every comment he makes, he either looks
and twists his body in some way or must hold back a scream. At one
point he
asks the narrator whether he cares to look beyond the face of matters
the mistake the narrator makes is his response that he does not care
the other things beyond the surface. Unable to understand even beyond
face of the man’s comment, the narrator is shocked to learn that the
man is
Emerson’s son, though his torment and pointed comments lead to
being strange. More importantly, he warns the narrator not to be
blinded by
the truth, an idea which keeps recurring in the text. The birds scream
fear as the narrator leaves the office, again acting as the parallel of
situation. The birds are set to reflect the sentiments he comes to in a
minute. Bringing up another bird, the narrator realizes they have used
and picked him clean, like the robin in his song. They have kept him
and running like some colorful toy or pet for their amusement.

Chapter 10 Summary:
Arriving at the plant, the narrator is sent to Mr. Kimbro who will be
boss. Mr. Kimbro, is very brusque and demanding, putting the narrator
immediately on the job with very few instructions and the order not to
questions. The narrator’s first job is with the pure white paint that
company is known for. When the narrator mixes the wrong ingredient into
paint because he is afraid to ask Kimbro, the paint turns a dull gray
underneath the white. Kimbro notices the difference and he is fired
from the
job and sent to another boss, Mr. Brockway. Brockway has a position in
basement as a sort of engineer, his education being years of experience
the plant, making the guts of the paint. Brockway is paranoid that the
narrator is trying to take his job and is thus quite irritable toward
asking him many questions about his past. He gives him a job checking
gauges on paint tanks and then is asked to shovel a mysterious brown
into the machine. They get along agreeably enough for awhile; Brockway
him stories of the boss begging him to come back to work and how he
came up
with the plant motto.

The peace ends after the narrator returns from retrieving his lunch. In
locker room he runs into what he thinks is a union meeting, where men
call each other brothers stare at him suspiciously and question whether
can trust him. Finally they allow him to get to his locker, by which
he has lost his appetite. He explains his delay to Brockway who
explodes in
anger at his participation in a union. Brockway physically attacks him,
refusing to listen to the narrator’s explanation. The narrator feels
tension snap inside him and fights off Mr. Brockway, knocking his teeth
However, because of their inattention to the gauges in the room, the
pressure goes over the allotted mark and Brockway laughing runs from
room as the narrator attempts to pull the valves back under control. He
fails and the tanks burst. The narrator is covered in white paint and
knocked unconscious.

The narrator’s entrance to the paint plant is ominous as he must cross
bridge in the fog, implying that he is unable to see out and around
him, and
then he descends into a swarm of workers, implying facelessness. As he
emerges into the plant then it seems as if he is merging with it too,
sucked up, losing sight and identity. Paint as a substance suggests the
property of coverage, of hiding the material beneath the surface with a
suffocating coat. By joining a plant which produces this covering
he becomes one of the tools of its creation. Ironically the companies
is Liberty Paints. Similarly his first task there is to make the pure
paint that the company is renown for. He mistakenly taints the purity
and is
fired. He is incapable of fulfilling their standards of whiteness.
Hyprocrtitically, Kimbro allows a batch of impure white paint samples
to be
sent out anyhow. The narrator is inadequate but cannot figure out how
he is
supposed to act. His attempts though to cover reality are flawed.

Foreseeing later events, the narrator is sent down into the basement of
plant for his next task. He is in charge of keeping the gauges on tanks
an even keel, but at the end of the day, fails in this respect too.
Brockway, his paranoid boss, invests in the narratives habit of
storytelling. In explaining how the owner could not do without him and
begged him to return to work when he had planned on retiring, Brockway,
admits that he is at home underground, controlling the power he can get
hands on and being left alone by most of society. This echo rings
with that of the Prologue. He also tells of how he thought up the
motto. The narrator makes the connection to his own thinking that white
right. With this parallel to the vet doctor and Dr. Bledsoe, the danger
inherent in producing the white paint takes on a broader meaning. That
explodes in his face is symbolic of his inability to control the
simply by watching a gauge or trying to fit himself into the boundaries
designed by a dominant order of society.

The union meeting which the narrator walks into when he goes to get his
lunch predicts the Brotherhood he will join later in the novel. However
this point, he is alarmed by the use of the term “Brother” and is
targeted as an enemy and an outsider. He feels stripped by the
and is again frozen in his tracks. His fate is decided without his
being allowed and he loses his appetite. The anger he feels even though
does not care to be a part of the group gives precedent for how easily
will be absorbed into the Brotherhood. It gives him structure and
acceptance. In a plant priding itself on whitening and coverage, the
narrator feels naked.He is turned on next by Brockway because of his
for unions. It does not matter that the narrator did not belong. He is
on two sides, between defending himself at the union meeting and then
Brockway. As he and Brockway fight, the narrator knocks Brockway’s
teeth out
before realizing that the man had bit him. Physically eaten away and
consumed by the factory, the frantic pull he feels in all directions
in his face. In the end of the chapter, the paint does its job. He is
covered and whitened.

Chapter 11 Summary:
The narrator wakes up to see doctors leaning over examining him. He is
wearing new overalls and is given things to swallow. The doctors speak
him being stunned and needing to keep him under observation for a few
days.Unable to provide his name, the doctors take another X-ray which
narrator is not quite capable of understanding in his state. He feels
covered by nodes as someone in an electric chair. His mind is
blank. He swims in and out of consciousness for what seems like days
he is again approached by questioning doctors. They argue over the
treatment, one feeling that surgery was best while the other supports
own machine which performs lobotomies without surgery. They discuss
castration and his psychology as well. An electric current sent through
causes him to dance and he overhears comments about how blacks have
but is not able to maintain a sense of anger. He is unable to
between the world inside and outside of his eyelids.

Feeling lonely and bewildered, a man appears who thrusts cards in is
asking his name. He is unable to answer this or the subsequent cards
for his mother’s name and children’s characters. Thrown into the role
of a
child, he is angered and lies mentally debating over his own identity.
Finally, the doctors and a nurse release him from the tubes and
machines and
usher him into the director without allowing him to ask questions. The
director notes that the narrator has been cured though the narrator
really knows from what. He is also told that he can no longer work at
plant but will receive ample compensation. The director blends in his
with Mr. Norton and he asks if he knows the old man. Still feeling part
some scheme that Bledsoe and Norton have going against him, he begins
laugh but the director does not understand. The narrator leaves and
out around the plant, feeling strangely disconnected from his mind and

The narrator moves from being covered in white paint to being encased
in a
white, rigid chair. He is stared at and examined at the hospital like
object. In addition, he is wearing new clothes — strange white
overalls. He
has a bitter taste in his mouth. For all intents and purposes, the
has become a science experiment. He is encased in a white world that he
tried to control for his own means but could not. At one point, he
that he has been moved to a box with its lid open and is surrounded by
machines. He is unable to maintain consciousness on his own, saying he
fights against the waves of sleep but to no avail. The doctors feel
have been successful when the narrator admits that he cannot feel his
He has been dispossessed and disembodied. The doctors argue over
whether to
cut him open or de-brain him through a non-surgical lobotomy. They
castration. He is a toy they play with as they look to change his
personality and reconstruct a new man. He tries to hang onto his self
his past, yet is unsuccessful for the most part. For example, he hears
from his youth but they are interrupted by pain. He open his eyes from
dreams and can only see glass and metal bearing down upon him. He
incapable of distinguishing between his body and the machines.

The future foreshadowed when he crosses the bridge has been fulfilled.
forgets his own name and his mother’s name. They next ask if he
children’s fictional characters and he is conscious of his state to the
extent that he can realize that he has become a fictional character. In
world, he is their doll. His mind is so altered that he cannot defend
himself. However, due to the trauma he undergoes in their white world,
he is
better able to comprehend its hypocrisy when he is released. He is not
far off the mark when he asks the hospital director if he knows Mr.
or Dr. Bledsoe. The narrator has become the robin of his song and is
picked clean.

Chapter 12 Summary:
Still foggy, the narrator stumbles back toward the Men’s House. Coming
of the subway, he falls on the street where he is helped by a strong,
motherly woman named Mary Rambo. She moves the crowd away from him and
inquires after his health. Though he replies that he is simply weak,
will not let him return to Men’s House until he is fully recovered
that he needed a woman to take care of him. The narrator hesitantly
to let her take him back to her house where he can rest and revive his
spirits. He sleeps for a long time and awakes to see her sitting by
him. She
feeds him and asks him some questions about his condition. Though he is
suspicious of her at first, she has good intentions and urges him to do
something purposeful for the race. She warns him to watch out for
and offers him a place to stay if he ever needs it.

Returning to the House, he feels inferior because of his hospital stay
lowly employment and realizes that he can no longer reside there. In
lobby, he thinks that he sees Dr. Bledsoe from the back, as the
head administers to a small audience. Dumping a bucket of foul brown
on his head, he does not notice the others motioning him to stop. The
man is
a prominent preacher of the neighborhood and the mistake is foolish. He
out into the street. When he returns, the porter tells him he must not
back after he packs up his property. The narrator immediately takes
Mary up
on her offer.

The beginning period at Mary’s house is quiet. The narrator has lost
sense of meaning and direction and spends most of his time in his room
thinking.He is torn between feeling secure under Mary’s wing and being
disappointment to the woman who expected him to be worthy to his race.
remains frozen like this until he is awoken by his first northern

The narrator’s entrance into Manhattan is a re-entrance. As he emerges
the subway onto Lenox Avenue, he is again belched from the whale and
into an overwhelming surge of people and things. Enormous light skin
press upon him as one woman did the first time he rode the subway. In
case, he has been reborn as a remade man, one picked clean and
mechanized by
machines, though these characteristics will surface more fully once he
the Brotherhood. Still, it is not surprising that since he has been
stripped of his identity, the caged and picked bird collapses after he
thrown into Harlem a second time. Mary, the mother figure as implied by
Biblical name, arrives to restore the narrator to life so that the
robin can
function in his reconstructed world. Mary is a big, strong woman and he
pliant in her hands. She leads him to the dark coolness of her house
contrasts greatly with the bright, white world of the hospital and the
orange sun which makes him faint outside of the subway. She replenishes
of what has been picked off of him, giving him food and sleep.

A bridge is mentioned again by Ellison which gives us insight into the
moment. Mary’s glasses sit low on the bridge of her nose, allowing her
look over them and see the narrator. She does not need any assistance
to see
the narrator clearly. She can sense that he has been at a hospital
she asks him. She tells him clearly, using a quotation derived from
interviews Ellison conducted during the Depression, “I’m in New York
but New
York ain’t in me…Don’t get corrupted”. Yet the damage to the narrator
already been done. The narrator wanders back to Men’s House and
feels inferior as his overalls differentiate him from thced that the
emergence would be healthier than the unity of opposites, that pretense
would be healthier than reality. The narrator cannot escape that easily
though as he will later learn that there is no place for him inside of
history. He had outrun Jack on the rooftops but does not succeed in
off the pretense of his existence for quite awhile.

Chapter 13 Summary:
Finally unable to contain his pent-up agitation, the narrator rushes
from Mary’s and allows his problems to whirl around in the cold air of
winter for awhile. Still feeling alienated from society, he wanders the
streets kept warm by the rage of his thoughts. Not knowing where to
turn or
what to do with himself, he is suddenly swept into nostalgic thoughts
home with the sharp smell of baking yams in the air. The vendor butters
yam for him and he is overwhelmed with homesickness. The memories that
up within him continue to boil the rage against his past and he finds
himself verbally attacking Bledsoe and laughing outloud. Running back
another yam, he begins to think of yams as a life policy. Why should he
ashamed of his past or upbringing? He decides to eat them whenever he
and he will be happy.

Continuing down the street, he nears a crowd and hears an old woman
The narrator realizes that the streets are filled not with junk but
that woman’s personal belongings. The crowd is animated in their
to the eviction occurring. Blurring the event, the narrator recognizes
self-conscious shame evident in the crowd from watching the
dispossession of
life inherent in the eviction. White men continue to carry items on to
street, ignoring the old couple’s cries. They state that the event is
and beyond their control. With each small piece of life the narrator
notices, he becomes more emotionally and viscerally involved. The
attempts to push inside to pray but is refused. The crowd is angered
plans to rush the white men, but the narrator runs to the forefront and
takes control, telling them to remember that they are law-abiding
people. He
speaks strongly for several minutes, stating that the couple too was
law-abiding and touching on how they all feel dispossessed. He incites
to all go inside the house and pray. The crowd works to carry the
back inside and the narrator moves inside as well. He is surprised when
notices a few white people as part of the crowd as questions which side
are on. More cops arrive. Deciding he better leave, the narrator is
told by
a white girl that he could leave over the rooftops and not be detected.

The narrator takes off running over the rooftops and notices soon that
short man is running after him. Afraid that he is a cop, the narrator
wonders why the man never yells or shoots. Reaching the street, he
loses the
man and notices a doctor coming to deliver a baby. Suddenly, the little
is back and talking to him.Impressed by how his speech moved the crowd
action, the man takes him to get a coffee and talk. The narrator is
and becomes quickly annoyed by the sort of double talk the man uses.
The man
approaches the subject of possible employment. He suggests that he
would be
very effective as a spokesman for his people. The narrator says that he
not interested but takes his number and name, Brother Jack, in case he
changes his mind. He walks back to Mary’s mulling over the conversation
the man and the eviction. Then he thinks of Mary and her strength and

The hot water filling the narrator’s body needs to be neutralized by
cold winter before the narrator feels safe venturing out of his
He mentions how the he is fueled by an inner fire to resist the cold.
whitened and chilled Harlem due to winter is symbolized in the store
he passes advertising for beauty through the whitening of black skin.
yams that he finds being sold on the street provide a contrast to the
whitening offer. The text states that “bubbles of brown syrup had burst
skin” of the yams. He consumes the food of his childhood, of the South,
homesickness. He refuses the urge to repress his natural tastes and
past in order to conform as he once thought was important. He eats the
goes back for seconds, and uses this food as a point to attack the
aspects of his Southern upbringing. He attacks Bledsoe as an eater of
Southern food, such as chitterlings and other items. Thus he parallels
Bledsoe’s hypocrisy by eating his yams while he attacks Bledsoe for his
effort “to play the Negro”. He acknowledges that simply eating the food
likes is only hypocritical if one is using it as a means to appear
subordinate. He allows a little more of his true brown syrup to break
skin and remarks that if he led his life as liberally as the experience
the yams had suggested, he would be a much happier person. The last yam
eats, however, is frostbitten. His efforts to avoid Bledsoe’s trap have
been fully successful as of yet.

The dispossession the narrator feels at the hospital resurfaces as he
upon an eviction in progress. An unclean bitter taste fills his mouth
is still reeling from the frozen yam when he realizes that he too is
dispossessed by the eviction. It is a personal dispossession. He
compares it
to a rotted tooth which consumes one’s mouth with such a pain that one
it being extracted. The dispossession causes him to feel nauseated. His
is regurgitated in the form of his speech to the crowd. The narrator
convinces the crowd to repossess the old couple’s house with their
instead of acting out in violence. He trusts his feelings and takes
of the situation.

When he meets Brother Jack, he does not trust the intuition which led
him to
take charge at the eviction. The superficiality of the Brother strikes
immediately as he comments that Jack acts like he is playing a part in
play. However, he dismisses the uncertainty and does not trust himself.
attempts to convince him that the old couple was a part of dead history
they must work on strengthening those with more potential. Jack hits on
very important point though which describes how the narrator will later
illustrate himself when he becomes more enlightened regarding his
of invisibility. He claims the old couple is “dead-in-living…a unity
opposites”. Ironically, though, Jack tries to persuade the narrator to
off part himself and become a new being, convin ST ­
Chapter 14 Summary:
Nearing Mary’s house, the narrator smells cabbage and is instantly
as it reminds him of his poor youth. He also realizes that the amount
cabbage she had made lately must mean she was short of money. He had
been able to pay rent for awhile and then he turned down a job offer.
Feeling ashamed, he looks at the information given to him by Brother
over coffee. Mary calls to him and tells him to make sure to eat
Instead he calls Jack in order to find out more about his offer. Not
surprised by the call, Jack tells him to meet them as soon as possible.
narrator runs out and they pick him up and take him to a party at an
expensive building, the Chthonian, where the rest of the Brotherhood is

At the party in the richly decorated room, the narrator senses a
familiarity. Brother Jack leads him around, introducing him to several
members, many of which have heard of his rousing speech at the
speak to Emma, Jack’s mistress, for a few minutes as she pours them
and the narrator is surprised at her directness and lack of subtlety,
especially as she asks Jack within hearing distance if the narrator is
enough for the job. On guard, the brothers sit down to business and
to explain the narrator’s mission. Jack asks him if he would like to be
next Booker T. Washington. The narrator replies that he was not as
great as
the Founder. Jack illustrates that the scientific and realist
they hold will make him into an even greater figure than Washington.
as if there is nothing to lose, the narrator accepts the mission and is
he will start the next day. He will also be given a new residence and a
identity. Jack gives him money to more than cover his debts to Mary and
meeting breaks up.

The rest of the evening, the narrator mingles with the new crowd,
by many of them to converse over different social and political issues.
man who corners him is drunk and asks him to sing a spiritual.
Jack has him led away. In the moment of tension following, the narrator
began laughing so hard that he cried and the rest of the room relieves
tension by laughing as well. Later in the night, he returns to Mary’s,
wondering about the new organization and the nature of the Brotherhood.

The cabbage smell that overwhelms the narrator on his return to Mary’s
represents some of the themes which have now been introduced, mainly
consumption and uncleanliness. Mary, as the mother figure, is
her own comfort for the well-being of the narrator . She cooks the same
inexpensive food over and again but will not ask the narrator for more
money. The guilt this produces in him eats him up inside. He thus
cannot eat
the dinner or breakfast she prepares for him. His guilt pushes him into
contacting Brother Jack. Thus, the narrator is also willing to make a
sacrifice. He takes on a new, unknown job because of Mary’s kind
toward him and the guilt he feels from letting her down. In order that
not be poor and unhappy, he changes his lifestyle. She claims a
position in
his life so pivotal that he takes on a new role in life with which he
is at
first uncomfortable.

The narrator senses danger when he is driving with the Brothers through
Central Park. On the road again, the narrator is in a different
than when we last saw him in a car. He is not behind the wheel,
as well as literally. He subconsciously drives Norton into the slave
quarters, unwillingly revealing the truth behind Bledsoe and others. On
occasion, he is in even less control of their direction and is driven
uncharted territory. He notes that the Park is deceivingly calm and
yet there are dangerous animals lurking in the nearby zoo. The danger
lurking behind pretense is a theme which will strike at the narrator

The Chthonian sets the thematic tone for the Brotherhood as he senses
he has experienced it all before, for good reason. The feeling that
should be an elevator on the wall mirrors his uncomfortable experience
the elevator at the office of Mr. Bates. Moreover, the fancy building
through which he is led from one group of people to another is
paralleled by
his experience at the elegant hotel of the battle royal. The narrator
dances with a white woman as the vet doctor predicted. Danger is most
definitely lurking behind the pretense of his new lifestyle as is
proven by
the clues provided.

Another familiar situation is one where he feels interrogated or
examined —
as if events are happening around him and to him but never with him.
narrator is asked how he would like to be the next Booker T.
Washington. He
does not know how to respond. He wonders if he is drunk because the
room and
its characters are spinning around him but no one seems to notice. The
Brothers calmly stare at him, as if he is under observation. We will
remember this sort of scene in the hospital when several times the
awoke and heard voices and saw doctors hovering over him watching. He
asked condescending questions which they had made him unable to answer.
Similarly in this situation, he cannot answer what seems like a very
question. However it also parallels the situation in the hospital
the question they have put to him surrounds his identity. He is
concerning Washington because he feels the Founder was a better man.
negative criticism surrounds Washington in society and Ellison would
used the name knowing he was often viewed as an accommodationist to the
white establishment. The Founder though is a very similar man if he
the world that made Bledsoe a leader. Instead of raising questions on
Washington, the narrator replaces him with another, even stating that
Founder did much of the same kind of work that Washington did. Ellison
reveals here the type of man that the Brotherhood wants the narrator to
and he is not able to yet grasp the hypocrisy inherent in it. He
resolves to
pattern his life on the Founder instead of creating his own path. He is
still the caged bird. In terms of identity, though, the narrator is
given another identity to follow as they present him with a new name.
ask what his name is but presume that they must make him into something

By creating a further pretense in himself, the narrator can
consequently no
longer live with Mary who appreciated him for himself, as very few
people do
in the novel. He is told that he must move and will spend many moments
in the novel trying to get back to her house. Yet he agrees to make the
change very easily. He suggests that a change of clothing will
transform him
into the new name he has acquired. As he comments, he would strip
further of his own assets and get rid of his hat in order to take on
his new
assignment. But does he really believe that by shedding his clothes he
make a new man underneath? It appears that the yam did not teach him
much of
a lesson after all. He speaks of needing to catch up, with the history
science, with the fast people in the Brotherhood, and with time. The
back in his room ticks with an urgent need to catch up, he remarks. One
almost hear his grandfather laugh as the narrator has begun to run even

Chapter 15 Summary:
The narrator wakes up the next morning to the sound of loud banging,
apparently in protest to the heat not working. Getting out of bed, he
take the banging and finds himself banging back. Standing by the pipe,
notices a figure of a Negro with overly exaggerated features which he
determines is a bank. Disgusted that Mary is keeping the object around,
takes it to hit the pipes and the head breaks off. Just then, Mary is
outside his room and asks if he is alright. Not wanting her to see the
broken figure , he dresses quickly and join her for coffee. She notices
he is not really listening. He tries to bring up the money he has
to pay her back but is not sure how to go about it. She tells him not
talk about his debt, so he tries another tactic, finally convincing her
he won money playing the numbers. He gives her a hundred dollar bill
says that he is going to see about a job.

Needing to go shopping for new clothes before he calls Jack, he leaves
Mary’s. The broken bank is still with him and he tries twice to dispose
it on the street. Each time, someone seems to suspect him of pulling
some crime by dropping the package and returns it to him. Finally he
puts it
in his briefcase. He sees the story of the eviction in the paper and
proud at the mention of his rabble-rousing. Reaching the stores, he
buys an expensive suit and accessories. He contacts Jack and is shown
new apartment after he finishes shopping.

The narrator wakes up the next morning in a huff because someone is
loudly on the pipes. He mentions that he feels “sick at heart” when he
realizes that the heat has gone out during his last day staying with
However, he refuses to listen to his body and his intuition and instead
rises from bed, hurrying to catch up as was noted during the last
His last day also brings about the surprise of finding an offensively
distorted and Negro modeled bank. He runs around his room first to the
and then to this bank, acting out with more rage than at almost any
point in the novel.

The bank’s structure is such that the hand flips the coins into the
mouth. The degrading Negro image must be fed with money to be kept
The “self-mocking image” drives the narrator crazy and he uses it to
the pipes with. The narrator notes that in his hands the bank looks
like it is being strangled than like it is smiling. It then breaks
spilling its coins as the narrator yells at his neighbors to stop
like uncivilized rural Negroes. He destroys the object that he
them with but more importantly he attempts to destroy the fear inside
himself. The bank is a metaphor for the recurring nightmare of his
grandfather. It is a character yessing the white man, or “acting the
and on the morning of his new role in society, the narrator cannot
being reminded of this attitude. And still it also strangely echoes an
earlier moment at the battle royal, where he must dive for what he
are gold coins. Filling his pockets with coins, consuming them, he is
filled to the throat with money as the bank is until it bursts.

The narrator is not able to get rid of the bank and its broken image.
He has
attempted to move on from his past but it strangely remains with him
haunts him through and through. Twice he tries to drop off the broken
but is caught both times. The people who catch him are employed because
is artificially shedding what is still a part if him, which still
him. He may try to take on a new identity, but instead he must stash
broken Negro in his briefcase and carry it with him. The briefcase then
on the table in his new apartment as he reads over the material of the
Brotherhood. He wears new clothes and has a new apartment. He showers
feels clean and refreshed, but the broken image still sits right in
front of

Chapter 16 Summary:
That night, the narrator is picked up by brothers for a rally they are
speak at in Harlem. The narrator had looked over the materials they had
given him and is told that he can watch the other speeches and then
last. The event takes place at a boxing arena and the narrator sits
over how his speech will be received. Feeling extremely self-conscious,
realizes that he is becoming someone new and different from his college
days. He goes out to stand in the alley to calm his mind and sees
taking on the new role. Noticing the police on horseback nearby, he
back inside .He is told the police are to protect them, then Brother
speaks first to the audience. Suddenly it is his turn and he takes the
stage, giving first a bad impression because of his nervous, raspy
Making a joke to clear the air, he draws from his old experience as an
orator to move the audience. He is unable to remember the technical
of the materials he had read, but speaks powerfully about dispossession
being an uncommon people and wins the crowd over. Reaching a pause in
flow of words, he turns the speech to his own life. Jack warns him not
lose his effectiveness, but he shakes him off and continues in his
line. He announces to the audience the he feels more human, ending his
speech crying.

The audience goes wild, but the Brothers seem less pleased. Surprised
their reaction, he learns that they disapprove of the rawly emotive
of his speech and yearn for a more rational, scientific approach. They
him to be dangerous and backwards. Jack however says that he was
and the approach of the Brotherhood only needs to be learned. The
is to be sent to months of paid training with Brother Hambro. The
returns to his apartment exhausted and rethinks the course of his
recognizing that his manner had actually been quite different than in
college. He is optimistic about his future in the Brotherhood.

It is not a coincidence that for the second time in the book the
narrator is
asked to make a speech in an arena which also doubles as a boxing ring
sorts. Though not as humiliating an experience as the battle royal, the
speech he must give for the Brotherhood has him wait until the end of
night before he speaks and has an element of failure directly connected
it. When the narrator first arrives at the arena, he is led in and
instructions as he was for the battle royal. He knows that he must
the audience with this speech in order to advance any further in this
of his life as was true in chapter one as well.

The first objects he sees in the waiting room are pictures of prize
on the wall. He tells the reader that he never thought he would be in
arena of which he had heard his father speak of the popular fighter who
his sight in the ring. The narrator decides that it must have occurred
the ring he is present at, thus placing the sight of the blinding in
same ring where he must fight for a position among the Brotherhood. He
fight for acceptance, as he did in the beginning of the story, but he
must accept the consequences of blindly following a movement he knows
about. He notes that the fighter in the picture is so battered by his
that he could be any man of any nationality. The metaphoric
connotations are
powerful by creating this parallel image of the narrator who was forced
box in order to go to college and now whose identity will be further
as he fights to take on the persona of a new name and lifestyle.

Ironically, he experiences double vision in the moment where he is so
textually connected to being blind. The idea of one seeing himself as
feels while simultaneously seeing himself as he is perceived by others
is a
literary device which has been employed since at least the pages of
prominent Afro-American scholar, W.E.B. Du Bois, in his work, The Souls
Black Folk. The moment of double sight enables the reader to have a
understanding of how it feels to be a member of a subordinated people
that the reader can see how one’s personality is inevitably split by
knowledge of themselves and of the self which most of society refuses
to see
beyond. By employing this allusion to the black literary tradition,
provides deft social commentary on the state of the narrator, a state
finds him self-conscious, examined , unreal, blind, and battered. He
says to
the reader it was as if he stood simultaneously at the opposite ends of
tunnel, “as when you see yourself in a photo exposed during
adolescence”. He
is being encapsulated by the Brotherhood into a new name while
simultaneously being aware of his own body and soul. Ellison states
that the
narrator hears the whir of the hospital machines directly before he
the stage to speak, feeling uncomfortable but pressing on nevertheless.

The speech he gives, however, is far from what the Brotherhood wants
him. He speaks from his heart, nearly crying at the end of the speech.
Brothers, however, think he has done more danger than good. His oration
not prewritten and he notes that he forgets the technical aspects of
Brotherhood he is supposed to address. After he finishes, the Brothers
him out of the arena and criticize his technique. He will have to be
to not address his primitive emotions. He will have to be indoctrinated
the Brotherhood and their scientific ideology in order to be
effectively a
part of the machine they would like to run. He embraces the chance to
them how much he can learn about the running of their machine, quickly
dismissing the image of his grandfather who suggests that all is not as
as he wishes it to be.

Chapter 17 Summary:
Four months later, the narrator receives a call from Jack and is taken
to a
bar. He is disappointed that it the meeting is not a call to action but
realizes that Hambro would have mentioned if something was to happen.
thinks over the training which had been more work than classwork in
as he had daily reading, discussions, and speakers to hear at night.
asks him about Hambro. He tells the narrator that he has heard good
and warns him to not let the material master him. Then, he gives the
narrator the surprising news of his assignment to become chief
spokesman in
Harlem starting the next day, with the orders to persuade many to join
keeping in line with the discipline. Jack takes the narrator to see
his office will be located and they run into Brother Tarp, whom he is
is reliable and vigorous for the cause.

The next morning at the office, the narrator is introduced to the
and Sisters in Harlem as their new spokesman. Jack tells them he has
hired to increase membership and arouse interest. Suddenly, Brother Tod
Clifton enters the meeting late. The narrator recognizes him as a
rival. His reason for his tardiness is a run in with Ras the Exhorter
the narrator realizes he heard speak on his very first day in New York.
reinforces that the organization is against violence and to be wary of

The committee leaves and the office members work at organizing and
labor. Having a chance to talk with Clifton, the narrator likes him as
man is knowledgeable and reassures him that their actions will be well
accepted. That evening they take action and speak to a crowd in Harlem.
During the event, Ras and his men edge closer and begin their attack.
He and
Clifton move into the crowd to face the attackers, Clifton closing in
on Ras
himself. Ras begins to yell accusations at the men, criticizing their
friendly relations with whites and calling them traitors. He rants on
the lost potential of the intelligent, handsome Clifton and how he
have killed him otherwise. The narrator tries to talk sense but Ras
him. Clifton strikes him down again and finally, the narrator succeeds
pulling him away. Clifton comments that perhaps Ras has to live outside
history to stay sane.

The narrator gets under way in his work the next day, calling community
leaders who fall right into line. Tarp gives him a portrait of
Douglass to hang in his office. Working feverishly, the weeks fly by
and he
is able to organize a parade to consolidate support with success. He
back on his past and realizes that he has reached a place that would
satisfied him even had he stayed in college. It had been an unexpected
transformation. His life is ordered and successful and he is pleased.

When the narrator is called late at night by Brother Jack to meet, he
that it is a call to action. The bar where they meet has startling
on the wall which the narrator is drawn to. The narrator focuses on two
paintings which Jack will define as sheer barbarism and the image of a
society. These classifications are interesting as the paintings they
to are a bullfight and a pink and white girl on a beer ad,
respectively. The
bullfight shows a matador just missing the charging bull that he has
provoking with the red cape whereas the girl ad clearly says that it is
April One, otherwise known as April Fools Day. The narrator had felt
the bullfighter picture presented grace, setting up a clear contrast
Jack’s vision of it. Furthermore, Jack’s vision of the steel society is
be construed as foolish by the reader. The message is: April Fools! He
not correct in his assumptions. Thus, when Jack praises the narrator on
work with Hambro, the Brotherhood trainer, the narrator s eyes quickly
shift to yet another painting he had not noticed earlier. In this
the matador is being thrown into the air by the bull’s horns.
Similarly, the
narrator is swept along by the Brotherhood ideology, manipulated and
by the training. He attempts to master the ideology as the matador
tries to
control the bull, but as the picture teaches the reader, he will not be
to attain that control. It is foolish as the other picture implies, to
attempt the sort of false classification of his life and attitudes
which he
attempts. By agreeing that he will try to master it however, Jack is
satisfied and gives him his first assignment. It was mentioned in
pages by the narrator that Jack had red hair. Perhaps, in that sense,
could make the symbolic leap that Jack represents the red cape which
the narrator and manipulates him. Jack can only be undone when, as the
succeeds in the last picture, the narrator overcomes the manipulation
throws the training aside.

The raw power of the black bull who finally succeeds in avoiding
victimization by the matador in the bar pictures is also an image which
be applied to the character of Ras the Exhorter. The narrator and Tod
Clifton, who is described as a perfectly chiseled man, run into Ras at
first street meeting which the narrator arranges. Ellison writes that
looked down at Clifton with the kind of rage which he describes as
“bull-angry”. The allusion to the pictures which the narrator had seen
the bar create another pair of characters which could fulfill the
portrayed: Ras as the bull and Clifton as the matador. At this point in
their relationship, Clifton is able to keep Ras at bay, but the battle
close. He nearly cuts Clifton’s throat when he gets his knife but
bring himself to do so because of the high esteem he holds Clifton in.
says that he may be killing his black king. Yet, bull-angry and
consumed by
raw rage, Ras struggles against Clifton until the narrator drags him
Clifton cannot help but throw in one last punch, as he tries
desperately to
resist what Ras is saying. The narrator himself is not at the point yet
where he can be hurt by the exhortations of Ras. He is proud of the
and patterned discipline of his new life. Yet as he uses the word
“dominated” to explain how the Brotherhood has embraced him, we know
that he
has simply become further blinded to the tricks of the red flash of

Chapter 18 Summary:
The narrator comes across an anonymous note in his mail which alarms
him as
it warns him to go slowly and carefully so he can continue to work for
people without being cut down. Alarmed, he questions Brother Tarp to
see if
he has any enemies. Tarp reassures him, noting how some of his plans
had met
with criticism at first but had become well supported and successful.
then shares some of his history with the narrator, relating his time on
chain gang and giving to him the broken link he has saved from breaking
through after nineteen years. He accepts the token out of respect for

Brother Wrestrum visits as well on the day of the mystery note, and
suspicion with the narrator because he seems meddlesome. He speaks of a
change being needed and warns that they must watch themselves. He
Tarp’s link as being an emotionally dangerous and dividing piece of the
past. Stressing the need for real brotherhood, his idea is for a
emblem interests the narrator. He agrees to alert the committee of the
idea.A phone call interrupts their conversation and the narrator is
for an interview by a respected publication. The narrator agrees to be
interviewed by a Harlem publication after trying to get them to speak
Clifton, mainly to annoy Wrestrum who had been motioning to him on what

Two weeks later, the narrator attends a strategy meeting. Unexpectedly,
interrogation begins concerning the narrator’s work. Wrestrum has
charges against him to the committee. Wrestrum announces that the
is a danger to the Brotherhood and charges him with attempting to
and dominate the Brotherhood. He presents the article the narrator was
interviewed for as evidence, crying that he is an opportunist and has
illustrated himself as the Brotherhood instead of part of it. Wrestrum
names an unknown plot against the Brotherhood that the narrator has
through which he trains supporters to only listen to him, for example.
narrator defends himself but the committee must talk it over. They
that the article is not harmful but state that they will need to
the other claims. Until the accusations are cleared, the narrator has
choice to become inactive or to speak on the Woman Question downtown.
Angered but determined not stop speaking, as that is his job, he agrees
the new assignment.

Brother Tarp, whom the narrator calls into his office when he receives
anonymous note warning him to be careful in the white man’s world, is
instantly linked with the character of the grandfather. Tarp notices
the narrator looks as if he has seen a ghost. The narrator sees his
grandfather’s face on Tarp when and is only able to look him in the
when the vision disappears. In this manner, Ellison is drawing Tarp as
another warning figure for the narrator. Tarp’s story, which he relates
wholeheartedly to the narrator, illustrates his punishment for
his family from the white man. He is part of a chain gang for the
years but comments that the punishment was never fully paid and will
be in the terms his oppressors wanted. He makes the significant point
he received his punishment for saying No. The consequences when a black
says no to a white man is contrasted by the grandfather’s dying notion
yessing a white man to death. The two men provide two different options
resisting the white power, neither of which the narrator is capable of
discerning against or deciding between at this point in his narrative.
gives the narrator the chain link he broke to escape the chain gang to
the narrator strength. The narrator acknowledges to himself that he
does not
really want the link but takes it from the old man out of respect and
sympathy for him and his condition. However, he subconsciously must
on the inherent power associated with the symbolic link as he will keep
with him for the rest of the novel, often grasping it in times when he
being attacked or questioned. Tarp himself is a link to the deep and
struggle against oppression. Tarp was forced to escape from actual
whereas the narrator is kept running by the men in power who have
him of his own meaning but whom he runs to please. By giving the
the link, Tarp is enabling him with the symbolic power to escape his
oppressors. First, though, he must discover the power within himself in
order to use the link. Because of this power, the character of Wrestrum
disgusted by the link. As one of the power structure, he finds the
weight of the chain link to be dangerous. He makes the ironic point
that the
link is ” a good reminder of what our movement is fighting against”.

Wrestrum surfaces again later in the chapter when the narrator is
down to a committee meeting and brought up on charges that Wrestrum has
accused him with. The support the narrator has gathered in his
alarms the Brother, who claims that he is a betrayer to the movement.
Wrestrum’s name sounds similar to the word restroom and takes on the
connotations suggested by that reference. He is a dirty and undignified
jealous of the narrator’s success. The narrator notes that the dirty,
childish interrogate makes him feel as if he is back in the South and,
notably, like he is naked. Although he has bought an entire new
wardrobe to
join the Brotherhood, in one swoop the narrator has again been stripped
to nothing. He comments that he feels empty and devoid of feeling. Yet
instead of fighting back as the link he has received from Tarp would
suggest, he admits that they have a logic he must accept because to be
part of the Brotherhood, one must give himself completely. By allowing
himself to dissolve and accept, he sticks himself further in the muck
Wrestrum’s lies and in the inevitability of his own invisibility.

Chapter 19 Summary:
Frustrated by the move but willing to try it, he gives his first speech
enthusiasm. A woman approaches him after in hopes that he will talk
some points in the ideology. She is beautiful and persuades him to come
for coffee. He learns that she is married and they talk further on
ideological concepts. The concepts turn more into her complimenting the
primitive force behind his speeches. Thank to the wine they have
instead of
coffee, the narrator feels at ease to talk at length on his ideas for
Woman Question. Soon, she leads him into the bedroom, ignoring a
telephone.He resists for awhile asking about her husband and making her
the phone, but finally gives into her seductive ways. Her husband
during the night but appears not not alarmed by the narrator’s
Still he dresses quickly and leaves.

The affair stays with him though he does not see her again, as he is
frightened that the Brotherhood will find out about her and use it
him. He wonders if the husband was some part of a test. He calls the
but is too embarrassed to ask her. He sits paranoid in his office the
day but by late afternoon realizes that they would have already called
there was a problem. A week or so passes and he watches for changes in
Brothers towards him, but detects none. Soon he is summoned to another
emergency meeting which alerts him to Clifton’s disappearance and
him in Harlem to deal with the resulting crisis.

The narrator’s struggles with the definition of humanity. He has an
with a white woman who feigns interest extreme interest in the
ideology concerning the Woman Question. Though seemingly dangerous to
him as
she is white and seductive and rich and married, he notes that beyond
all of
those qualities he felt comfortable with her because she was still
human. In
a sense, their statures in American society are similar because they
both forced into submission and oppression, she being a woman and he
black. It is not surprising that her husband is absent and returns
later in
the night, unconcerned that she is openly cheating on him because she
become nearly invisible as well. Therefore she too is given no name by

Yet in her relationship to the narrator, she is able to dominate since
creates a division among his thoughts. He is painfully divided on how
feel and does not know how to react to her persuasive seduction. As he
comments, he wants “both to smash her and to say with her”. She edges
closer to her large white bed and one is reminded of Trueblood’s dream
a white woman in her manor house appears out of a clock, out of time,
sinks into her large bed. This threat to Trueblood is manifested in
reality as he finds himself raping his daughter, his own flesh and
Similarly, the narrator is strangely related to the woman but also
victim to her, sinking into her seductive bed. He cannot help but feel
trapped by the situation and takes off running. He escapes from her bed
her husband, running out in the middle of the night and spends the
next week worrying whether he was tricked into some scam by the
He continues to run, controlled by other minds. Instances in his life
no meaning outside of the Brotherhood. Consequently, when he learns
Clifton, one of his best friends, has disappeared, he thinks not of
as much as the relief that the pressure has been taken off of himself.

Chapter 20 Summary:
Returning to his old post, he finds that much is changed in the short
he has been gone. Brother Maceo, a good contact, is not where the
expects to find him, at the Jolly Dollar bar near his office. The other
in the bar treat him like a stranger when he greets them as brothers
Barrelhouse, the bartender, has to calm them down. He tells the
that much of the community feels similarly to the men in the bar, that
Brotherhood has let them down.Returning to his office, Tarp has
too and the decorations in his office were stripped away.

The next morning, many members appear at the office who he sent to look
Clifton. However he knows that the atmosphere is still not right and he
suspects that a committee meeting may be occurring without his
He runs to where the meetings are held and hears that it has started.
Angered by the obvious offense, he strangely decides to buy new shoes,
making him a little lighter of foot. By chance, he finds Clifton
on the street nearby. Not aware who the man is at first, he watches
display a dancing, paper Sambo doll accompanied by a catchy spiel.
and intrigued, the narrator slowly realizes the street seller’s
identity and
their eyes meet. The police notice the performance and Clifton lifts
items and takes off. Left on the sidewalk bewildered, the narrator
that Clifton is out of history and decides to forget him. He heads back
the office, but notices a police chase. Feeling somewhat responsible
Clifton, he follows in case he will need to pay a fine. Clifton resists
arrest however and fights back. Frozen, the narrator watches Clifton
to the ground and realizes that he has been shot. He attempts to help
the cops do not allow him to come closer. Finally they ask him
about Clifton and tell him that he is dead.

Wandering back to his district, his mind turns over the events and he
questions Clifton’s motives. He is upset at the unjust killing and
feels he
must act. Remarking how many men stand outside of history, he is glad
have found a place in the Brotherhood. He still questions if he is
right and
for the first time notices many of the people around the neighborhoods
he has not been able to help. He realizes that he has been asleep and

With Clifton’s disappearance, Harlem seems to have become distorted and
changed. The district does not resembles the place the narrator left,
one he has seen before. Visions from his past appear in the text. He
men in the street who are kneeling as though looking for lost coins,
much as
he and other boys once did after the battle royal. Moreover, he finds
himself nearly at Mary’s door but quickly turns and runs the other way.
Brotherhood greeting he gives in the Jolly Dollar is met with criticism
disdain. The narrator feels as if he has entered another world. The
game has
changed its rules but he has not been told, as he often felt in the
hands of
Dr. Bledsoe and at the paint factory. In this confusion, he hopes to
talk to
Brother Tarp who could reassure him like he once did when faced with
anonymous note. Tarp however is gone too. Tarp had offered a way to
face his
situation and the narrator had not taken advantage of it. Instead he
accepted his mission to leave Harlem in order to accommodate the
Brotherhood. It appears as if his exit from Harlem has resulted in the
of supportive members and the positive changes he had created as well.

The narrator is made glaringly aware of his dispossession from Harlem
the Brotherhood when he reaches the strategy meeting to find it already
session. The district is altered and he is no longer welcome at
meetings. Not a part of Mary’s life and no longer fully welcomed by the
Brotherhood, the narrator wanders the streets much as he did before the
eviction. The connection exists because he fulfills the role first
played by
the old couple. His house has thrown him out onto the streets. In this
of dispossession, the narrator buys new shoes because he feels the need
possess something of his own. Thus, by giving his running feet new wear
feels temporarily rejuvenated. He finds his desire for new shoes to be
strange need but it temporarily satisfies the void left by his race for

The Sambo doll that Clifton is found to be selling is an allusion to
Negro bank that the narrator had found in Mary’s apartment. Both are
disgustingly degrading toward African-Americans, promoting
features and actions. That Clifton has moved from an important member
in the
Brotherhood to the position of Sambo progenitor places him outside of
history similar to how Clifton described Ras in their fight scene.
underneath the deep hypocrisy the Brotherhood represents and which Ras
exhorted, Clifton moves to be a symbol of the other extreme. Perhaps,
reader must wonder though, if Clifton had fallen into the advice given
the grandfather. He is yessing the white men to death. The police men
something more harsh and bitter in Clifton than his being an illegal
Clifton was tired of fighting back the fears he felt when challenged by
and so makes a complete turn and attacks from the underbelly. In this
too he
fails. As Clifton sings in his advertising jingle, Sambo is more than a
he is “the twentieth century miracle”. The miracle of blatant
oppression and
inequality keeps the narrator running . He tries to avoid the message
of the
toy which is the miracle of accommodation. He too has been made to
controlled by the Brotherhood, but he wishes to erase the Clifton
from his mind. Ironically, he instead takes comfort in knowing that he
found the Brotherhood and decides to make a greater push toward
others in as well.

The Values of the Invisible Man
April 13, 2000
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is the story of an educated black man who
been oppressed and controlled by white men throughout his life. As the
narrator, he is nameless throughout the novel as he journeys from the
where he studies at an all-black college, to Harlem where he joins a
Communist-like party known as the Brotherhood. Throughout the novel,
narrator is on a search for his true identity. Several letters are
given to
him by outsiders that provide him with a role: student, patient, and a
member of the Brotherhood. One by one he discards these as he continues
grow closer to the sense of his true self. As the novel ends, he
decides to
hide in an abandoned cellar, plotting to undermine the whites. The
story can be summed up when the narrator says “I’m an invisible man and
placed me in a hole- or showed me the hole I was in….” During the
the narrator values several important things which shape his identity
well as his future. Through his experiences and the people he has met,
narrator discovers the important values of his education, his
and the meaning of his grandfather’s advice.

From the very beginning of the novel the narrator values his education.
education first brings him a calfskin briefcase, when the
rewards him for his success, saying “Take this prize and keep it well.
Consider it a badge of office. Prize it. Keep developing as you are and
day it will be filled with important papers that will help shape the
of your people.” The narrator treasures the briefcase so much because
symbolizes his education. He carries it throughout the whole novel, and
is the only object he takes into the cellar from his former life. Next,
narrator is overjoyed at what he finds inside the briefcase: “It was a
scholarship to the state college for Negroes. My eyes filled with tears
I ran awkwardly on the floor.” The narrator could now afford to take
education further. Education is so important to the narrator because it
raises his status above the other blacks. It is the difference that
literally separates him from his slave ancestors, as well as the
of uneducated black men at the time. The narrator values his education
the very beginning of the novel, as it brings him many rewards.

Towards the end of the novel, the narrator beings to value his
The narrator first begins to grasp the value of invisibility when he
says “I
was and yet I was invisible, that was the fundamental contradiction. I
and yet I was unseen. It was frightening and as I sat there I sensed
frightening world of possibilities.” He says this when he takes on the
identity of Rhinehart. He begins to realize that “It is sometimes
advantageous to be unseen.” Not only is he entertained at people
his identity, but it allows him to slip by Ras the Exhorter unnoticed.
invisibility ends up saving his life in the riots, as he thinks “I felt
myself plunge down….a long drop that ended upon a load of black
lay in the black dark upon the black coal no longer running, hiding or
concerned.” Men were chasing him with baseball bats, demanding that he
over his briefcase. The narrator ran away and fell through a manhole,
finding himself in a coal cellar. He was now literally invisible to
everyone, allowing him to escape. Finally, the narrator’s new found
invisibility allows him to live in the coal cellar, where he can “Now,
of my invisibility…live rent-free in a building rented strictly to
Here, the narrator plans his return to society, when he will carry out
plan to fight against whites. As the narrator develops and matures
the end of the novel, he realizes that the invisibility he once cursed
be highly beneficial to him.

The advice that the narrator receives from his grandfather is the
final, and
perhaps the most significant of his values. The advice of his
“Son, after I’m gone I want you to keep up the good fight… Live with
head in the lion’s mouth. I want you to overcome ’em with yeses,
’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction, let ’em swoller you
they vomit or bust wide open.”
He first grasps this advice in Chapter 24, after Tod Clifton’s funeral
after the Brotherhood betrays him. These words have haunted him his
life, and now he fully understands and believes this advice. This new
understanding leads the narrator to develop a new plan. He decides to
the advice and become a spy, pretending to be loyal to the Brotherhood,
while plotting to overthrow them. The very next day, he begins by
seeking to
use Sybil as an inside source of information. At last, the advice
brings the narrator to his purpose in life. This advice brings him
closer to
his true self, as he realizes what he must do. His grandfather’s advice
determines and shapes his future, and it becomes the basis of his
plans. The
advice of his grandfather has the greatest impact on the narrator, as
understanding of it completes his search for self identity.

Everyone has values. At the beginning of the novel, the narrator values
education, as it brings him many rewards. As he develops and matures,
begins to value his invisibility, which resulted from whites refusing
to see
him. His invisibility allowed him to survive, and it became a key part
his plan to end oppression against blacks. Finally, the advice of his
grandfather which disturbed him his whole life ended up being his
purpose in
life. These values shape the narrator’s identity, as well as his path.
Although all these values are extremely important to the narrator, I
completely relate to all of them. One value that I share with the
is education. Education is a huge part of my life, as it plays a large
in determining where I will go and to what extent I will succeed in my
future. A value that I partially share with the narrator is his
invisibility. Although my feelings of invisibility are not to the
extent of
the narrator’s, many times I have felt that people refused to see me
give me the recognition that I deserve. Finally, I cannot relate to the
narrator’s valuing of his grandfather’s advice. I have not been through
experiences that he and his grandfather had been, mainly because I have
grown up in a different time period. The narrator faced constant
throughout the entire novel. He managed to survive and succeed because
his values. Throughout Ellison’s novel, the narrator possessed the
values of education, invisibility, and his grandfathers advice.


I'm Lydia!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out