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Invisible Man

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Invisible Man is a story told through the perspective of the narrator, a Black man struggling in a White culture. The term “invisible man” truly idealizes not only the struggles of a black man but also the actual unknown identity of the narrator. The story starts during the narrator’s college days where he works hard and earns respect from the college administration. Dr. Bledsoe, a Black administrator of the school, becomes the narrator’s friend. Dr. Bledsoe has achieved success in the White culture which becomes the goal which the narrator seeks to achieve. The narrator's hard work culminates in him being given the opportunity to take Mr. Norton, a White benefactor to the school, on a car ride around the school area. Against his judgment, the narrator takes Mr. Norton to a run down Black neighborhood. When Dr. Bledsoe found out about the trip, the narrator was kicked out of school. The narrator is shattered, by having his friend and mentor turn on him. He soon travels to New York to start fresh and begin a new life. In New York, he joins the Brotherhood, a group striving for the improvement of the Black race. After joining the organization, the narrator meets Brother Clifton, a young Black man who is sympathetic to the narrator's situation. Brother Clifton is an individual who seems to be happy and successful in the brotherhood. The narrator and Clifton share a bond and appear to have mutual respect for each other. Then, without warning Clifton suddenly disappears. He is next found by the narrator selling dolls on a street corner. The narrator wonders why Clifton, a respected member of the Brotherhood, would lower himself to becoming a neighborhood merchant. The narrator wonders if Clifton felt betrayed because the Brotherhood used him and then left him alone. After the encounters with Dr. Bledsoe and Brother Clifton, the narrator becomes confused and searches for a meaning to his life. Often in today’s society people become “invisible” due to their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or social class. They are often shunned away or discriminated against because of these factors. The spirit of this book is defined by the will to overcome personal tragedy and social injustices.

The book’s main focus is on the gradual disillusionment of the narrator and his personal battles. In particular, the book develops the battle the narrator faces when he discovers the truth about the Brotherhood organization. He eventually realizes that they are using him for their own purposes and encouraged him to incite the blacks to a riotous level so they will kill one another. The narrator develops feelings of hopelessness when it becomes apparent that he is being betrayed by both white and black cultures. His overwhelming feeling of emptiness comes to a climax when he falls into a manhole during a riot. While hibernating in the underground black community, the narrator struggles to find meaning in his invisibility and to come up with his true identity. The seclusion allows the reader to realize the disillusionment of the narrator. Ellison does an incredible job of getting inside the narrator’s character and describing his emotional battle. At times it feels as if the text is purely his thoughts transcribed directly onto the page. The narrator traces back his history and experiences and tries to make sense of them. The disillusionment seems understandable to the reader when his thoughts are gradually revealed. The “dark” period of seclusion in the underground ironically provides “light” for the narrator’s personal refuge. Eventually, he grows to understand what the brotherhood and what Dr. Bledsoe could never understand, that individuality does not exclude being part of a group or culture. Ultimately, he comes out of hibernation with a changed attitude and hope for the future.

There is a surprising amount of negative images in this book. The majority of the text is dedicated to the pains in the life of the narrator. The images of discrimination and the hardships of society present the reader with an appreciation for modern day American culture. The degree to which these people suffered is a tough concept to fully grasp. Current American society is still battling issues concerning race and prejudice but many improvements have been made. Looking back on the time frame of this story, you begin to realize the true implications of the narrator’s battle and appreciate that his journey still exists today through equal rights advocates and Black Americans all across the world. The narrator seems to have little faith throughout his fight for an identity and social justice, unlike the optimism that is seen today in America. More than ever, equal rights are evolving and being protected in modern societies, unlike the situation during the time period of this novel. The reader cannot help but to be impacted negatively by the harsh images and themes of the book. After college, the



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(2010, 12). Invisible Man. Retrieved 12, 2010, from

"Invisible Man" 12 2010. 2010. 12 2010 <>.

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"Invisible Man." 12, 2010. Accessed 12, 2010.