I awoke, there was a crash on the upper deck. I heard a thunderous crackling from my head above. I ran up the stairs and what I saw devastated me. The 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 as possible. The smoke was choking me.
I could see a faint outline of a face across the deck. It was Tom, my lifelong friend and companion. He was completely surrounded by the bright flames. “Tom are you OK!!””Yeah, but the fire has me surrounded!””Tom jump overboard, hurry!””But.
. . . but. . .
. “”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 that 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 before long I couldn’t hold on. I don’t know when I woke up. All I could feel was rugged sand all over my body and in my mouth.
Land, we had washed ashore! Then I remembered fully 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 the boundary of the seaside.
I followed them to see him lying against an aged tree trunk. I went around to confront him and discovered he was passed out. 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 was 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 were.
This wasn’t exactly how I planned on spending my vacation in the Caribbean. I thought we would be taking it easy cruising across the rolling waves for two weeks. We had no idea where we were, and we had no idea how long we were going to be here. There seemed to be no signs of life so we ventured inward 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 mysterious 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 salty and sore throat. We decided we needed something like a shelter to stay in.
We carried sticks 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 rain forest so I tried building a fire. After patiently striking a piece of flint against my pocket knife a flame shot up from the pile of brush. Before long 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 get lost.
By scratching trees and drawing in the ground we made sure we could find our way back again. It was amazing, there was birds singing, monkeys 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 it 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 a drink. “Ouch!!!!”The pain was astounding. The water was boiling hot!! I looked down at my 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 cheese!”He looked at me then at the stream.
With a puzzled look on his face he took a tree branch and stuck it in the pool of water. Before our eyes we watched as it bubbled and the stick disintegrated before our astonished eyes. The 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 heard a sound that made my turn pale. A growl, a flesh hungry growl from behind my back. An animal ready to tear me limb from limb.
I turned in an instant and backed up to Tom’s side. It 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.
Ready. . . . .
. . . .
. GO!!!”We hurried but, it was the kind of death run where you know you were doomed. The panther was right behind us, it’s claws tearing up our footprints. One 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 and 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 grabbed a small tree beside me and Tom grabbed my leg I looked up ready to see the pale evil eyes of the panther but I saw nothing.
Where was he? The shaking 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 to 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 headed 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 nothing more than a bloody limb. I was slowing as Tom ran faster. Suddenly I found myself on the ground.
A sharp pain ran across my side and down my leg. I 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 towards 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 scorching heat across our bodies. It was getting hotter and the smoke of burning rain forest began to cover the mysterious island. Finally we reached the beach and he placed me under a palm tree while he began to make a raft.
He gathered driftwood, vines and branches together. 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 while ago. He finished using all the supplies from around us and the raft he had made had to do.
He carried it to the water and then carried me to it. He 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. Without warning I was under water.
Salt filled my throat as pain ripped through my body as I was tossed by the waves like a rag doll. I felt a tug on my neck as Tom hauled me toward the surface. I coughed and spit trying to clear my throat of salt and sand. Tom placed me on the raft and again tried to get on. Once again I was thrown into the water as soon as the waves hit.
I had no way to hold on, or to swim. With one arm and one leg I was at the mercy of mother nature. We returned to shore and I knew we were running out of time. “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 filled eyes I said, “Tom, leave without me!””I can’t leave you, theres no way that will happen. “”Go!!!!!!!”There was no way I would be able to stay on the raft and even if I did I knew I was dying.
I asked him to put me under a palm tree facing the rain 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 sobbing. I couldn’t take it and I began to cry, tears streamed down my face. I knew 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 friends 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 won’t for a long time. He got a great gift, life and I hope nobody ever takes that 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 be taken away today or tomorrow. CRW @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 mouth was dry, my nose was sore, and my eyes itched from sleep crust. A huge yawn 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 thought that I kicked him on purpose because he punched me as hard as he could in my leg. 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 incoherent. 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 and using slurred speech. I was about to belt him one more for getting in my face but that was before he yelled “Auntie, Ron hit me!”I said in a whinny little voice ” He started it auntie, I didn’t do nothing!””Knock it off you two, can’t you see that I am trying to drive?” “Keep quiet 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 ” don’t mess with me today stare”. That kept us quiet, we did not utter another word after that. As for not waking everybody else up, it was too late for that. Brenda, who is the youngest, awoke first.
She was being pretty quiet but the silence 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 oldest girl. The first thing that came out of her mouth was ” I’m hungry let’s stop at 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 only a couple hours of sleep. Everyone was feeling the effects of being on the road. As a matter of fact everyone was getting pretty sick of each other.
Lately all we did was argue. It was a pretty tough year for the family and this trip was supposed to be that needed escape from all the stress brought on by everyday life in the 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 were going to finalize all of the legal business that was involved with the deed and the will. The plan was to build a cabin on the land and use it for a 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 the new family cabin. I wanted to swim in a real creek instead of the city pool. 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 Detroit 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 wanted to be free of cares and worries. I wanted to be happy. It seemed as thought 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 that was some kind of tall tale. People wore straw hats, overalls, and jeans with 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 wanted. Too bad that wasn’t the case. Actually this was the worst summer vacation that I have ever had.
Utah, Alabama is a small place. You probably won’t be able to find it on most maps. That’s probably a good thing because you probably wouldn’t want to go there, especially if you were black. To most of the whites in Utah 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 a bad thing to me. I am from a predominantly black city where blacks did not have to endure strange, hateful stares and racial slurs like spook and nigger. At least 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 mayor, 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 face 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 and 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 fully aware that I was a minority. I had heard the word a couple of times but I 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 stuff.
Aunt Florence saw this as the perfect opportunity to ask grandpa about the land and rally for our support. She brought the subject up sort of casually. She said “Daddy what are you 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 on 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 sell it for me didn’t I? Why are you trying to make me look like the bad guy for 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 can’t 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 mad. He didn’t come back for a couple of hours and he didn’t speak to us again until we came back from the trip. I wish that he would have. I wish he had explained to me exactly why he was so mad. After that incident I wondered what a honkey was but no one would tell me. Grandpa always said that he left Alabama because he heard that Chrysler was hiring and because there was a chance for a new beginning in Detroit.
He insisted that he loved it down south. It wasn’t until later that he would 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 sharecrop 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 me 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 the 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 the south.
Whatever it was, nothing was going to change their minds they were just as stubborn as grandpa. Besides that all of us kids wanted to go too. 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 issue really was I probably would have stayed home.
Anyway it was too late for all of that now. We had just crossed the state boarder and we had to stop somewhere. We had to stop and let Brenda relieve her. Remy would not stop whining about stopping at McDonalds. I wanted to stretch my legs and I had to go to the bathroom too.
It was about ninety degrees in the shade that day. My mouth was as dry as one of my teacher’s history lectures. I wanted ice-cold lemonade. Grandma and Sam wanted to stop 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 was 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 of 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 made 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 us 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 too 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 here”Those feelings of excitement and anticipation quickly wore off.
We kept on walking toward the diner anyway. I felt that this was probably the longest walk that I had ever taken through a parking lot. We stayed close to each other and walked at a slow, unsure pace. The dust seemed to settle in the air with every step we took. It was at that moment that I had begun to feel 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 want us around. I felt as if I was alone in a world filled with people who hated 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 people. What ever happened to southern hospitality? I could not believe what I was hearing. A little boy who must not have been any older than twelve kept repeating over and over “Go away niggers!” “Go away niggers!”I felt like I was in the “Twilight Zone” This couldn’t really be happening to me! We finally got to the door. It was too late to turn back now.
We were at the point of no return. I mean how would we have looked if we had turned around and ran for the mini-van and pulled off? When we stepped through the door it was like walking into a country western movie. We were the bad guys 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 to call it my permanent tan.
Just like in the movie the bad guys walk through 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 to look at us. Even the cook and a few dishwashers came from the back of the 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 vomit.
Any way we decided to take a seat and get some food. We sat in a booth next 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 sat 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 what 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 niggers 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 never 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. She flew off the handle and she was steaming mad. She said to the woman “We have been sitting here for thirty minutes while you passed us up to serve people who came in after us.
Where is the manager I want to see the fucking manager. “A guy, who was sitting at a table from across the room said, “Bob don’t want to talk to no nigger”Auntie told the man to shove it. I never heard her curse before I could not 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 should 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 little bald headed man with bad teeth. His face was red and he seemed quite pissed 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 order! Then she turned to me and said, “Ron you said that you wanted a steak right?”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 he 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 and left the diner.
We piled back in the mini-van and drove off. We decided to find a hotel and drive back to Detroit in the morning. We ended up selling the land to someone instead of keeping it. It took me a long time to get over the emotional trauma of this incident. Sometimes I still think back on it just to remind myself that racism still exists in America. A.
LLIn 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 to make an open commentary on the subject of racism. Fats Waller originally 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 imposed 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 song in the background of his story without directly commenting on it, Ellison provides subtle reinforcement for the novels central tension between white racism against blacks and the black struggle for individuality. The Invisible ManThe novel, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison explores the issue of life,liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through the main character. Inthe novel, Invisible Man, the main character is not giving a name. Inour paper we will refer to him as the Protagonist.
Ellison exploreshow unalienable rights cannot be obtained without freedom from theobstacles in life especially from one’s own fears. In the novelInvisible Man, several major characters affect the Protagonist. One ofthe major characters is Dr. Bledsoe, who is the president of theschool. Dr. Bledsoe had a major effect on the main character, becausethe Protagonist idolizes him.
“He was every thing that I hope to be,”(Ellison 99), but the Dr. Bledsoe degrades him when we says “Why, thedumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way toplease a white man is to tell him a lie” (Emerson 137) and calls him aNigger. In addition, the Protagonist grandfather had a major effect onhim. The ! Protagonist’s grandfather last word, “Live in the Lionsmouth” (Ellison 16) has a lasting effect on him throughout most of thenovel. Finally and most important, Ras the Destroyer, whom theProtagonist fears whom along with Dr. Bledsoe in a separateencountering calls him “a educated fool” (Ellison 140).
The firstencounter of the Protagonist own fears is introduce when hisgrandfather’ s tells the Protagonist to go against the white man by”overcome ’em with yeses” (Emerson 16). These words haunts theProtagonist when he is kicked out getting kicked out of college. WhenDr. Bledsoe kicks him out of college, the Protagonist reflects on hisgrandfather last words “undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em todeath^”(Emerson 16).
For a moment, the Protagonist wonders if hisgrandfather might be right. However, due to the Protagonist fear offailure, the Protagonist doubts his grandfather wise words, because hedoes not want to believe that his role in life is to undermine thewhite man. So, the Protagonist convinces himself that the Dr. Bledsoeand the school is right and goes to New York. The second encounter, inwhich the Protagonist reveals his fear and not being accepted, is inthe Battle Royal.
The Battle Royal is a boxing match involving nineother African American boys who have to fight until the last man isstanding. The protagonist endures this degrading act as ploy, so thathe can be able to read his speech, in the hope of impressing the elitewhite men of the town. The Protagonist fear of not being looked uponas an uneducated cause him to be the subject of a brutal beating, whichknocks him out and torturous electrical shocking. In addition, theProtagonist fear of not being acceptance is his denial of being a”Negro”. The Protagonist encounter with Dr. Bledsoe exemplifies hisdenial.
The Protagonist looks up to Dr. Bledsoe as a model of what hewants to be. However, when Dr. Bledsoe called the Protagonist an”educated fool” (Ellison 140) and an Nigger; the Protagonist ignores itbecause of his denial of being a Nigger, but under normal circumstancesa person would get angry and upset. Dr. Bledsoe name is also a play onword, because when he calls the Protagonist a Nigger, he bleeds hispeople so.
Dr. Bledsoe bleeding of the Protagonist shows his disregardfor his own people. The Protagonist fears of not being accepted isalso evident when he continues to believe that he would get back intothe college even after getting kicked out. The third situation thatthe Protagonist encounters is with Ras the Destroyer.
Ras character isone of a total opposite of the Protagonist. Ras’s goal is thedestruction of the white man. As the Protagonist, enter a brotherhoodof both white and black people, he finds himself at odds with Ras, whorefuses to have a brotherhood with white people. Although theprotagonist is able to avoid any real conflicts with Ras, he is calledan “educated fool” (Ellison 292) once again this time by Ras, when theProtagonist comes to the aid of his friend Clifton. The Protagonistholds his education in high esteem and is in a complete state of shock,by being called a “educated fool” once again.
However, the greatestimpact that Ras has on the Protagonist is at the end of the Novel. This occurs when the Protagonist is attacked by Ras. The Protagonistcalls out that “They want this to happen”. The Protagonist refers thisstatement to the brotherhood, which is not a brotherhood at all!But it is too late. Ras is intent on killing the Protagonist.
Whenthe Protagonist finally escapes, the Protagonist is desperate and wantsto hide. In the end, this leads him to a hole where the Protagonistfeels that he is invisible, which we find him in the beginning. Toconclude, the Protagonist realized even being underground away fromsociety, his mind would not let him rest. He states that “I’m aninvisible man and it placed me in a hole- or showed me the hole I wasin^.
“(Ellison Epilogue). This is an effective metaphor, because thatis where life left him. As stated by a German Philosopher, FriedrichNietzsche, “A snake that does not shed its skin will perish”. TheProtagonist realized he must shed his metaphorical skin of fear anddenial of being a Negro in order to obtain his unalienable which arerights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The freedom heobtains through shedding his skin is that he knows he is free to behimself without fearing not being accepted. Bibliography1. Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. New York, Vintage Books2.
Latu, Susan. School Web Site. 1998. Phillips,3. Elizabeth C. “Monarch Notes” Ralph Ellison Invisible Man.
New York, MonarchChapter 3 Summary:The narrator brings Mr. Norton to the Golden Day bar because going into town would take too long. Along the way, the narrator drives past the veterans (mental patients) on their way to the bar as well. He convinces the patrons 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 narrator leaves Norton in the car and tries to get the whisky for him.
Halley will not allow him to take it outside. The narrator returns to the car to find Norton unconscious and, afraid he is dying, he runs back inside for help. When he brings Norton inside, the vets surround Norton, calling him names and jerking his head around. Halley pushed them aside and pours whiskey into 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 attendant, 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 Norton’s yelling. Trying to escape the chaos, the narrator attempts to find Norton whom has become separated from him. The narrator finds Norton unconscious again and does not know what to do until a short fat man helps him bring Norton upstairs and finds him a bed to lie upon.
The prostitutes who had been upstairs stand around him, musing over his features. They are thrown 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 to 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 college. As Norton begins to feel better, one of the women returns and the narrator becomes anxious to leave. The vet continues to talk in an increasingly esoteric manner, refuting Norton’s idea of destiny. Angered, Norton and the narrator finally exit the Golden Day and drive back to the campus.
Analysis:It is not a surprise that the Golden Day bar and brothel is on the other 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 yet represent men who have held a myriad of professions. The way in which the 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 Golden Day, Ellison makes a point to illuminate Mr. Norton as an animal as well when he mentions the “amazingly animal-like teeth” which are normally hidden 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. Another episode of storytelling takes place and again reflects upon later events. 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 similarly, repressing his emotions like a mechanical man.
In response, Norton calls him insane. Chapter 4 Summary:Driving back, the narrator is filled with fear over how Dr. Bledsoe will 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 and the ideals of the Founder are the only identity he has. He drops Mr. Norton 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 quarters, 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 the aspects of a concerned and appeasing grandfather. He apologizes profusely 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 stay there until chapel.
Norton promises to explain. Back in his room, he continues to mull over the day, confounded by Bledsoe’s 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 his office after chapel and that he believes Bledsoe understood the rationalization he gave to him about the drive.
Analysis:Driving back through the gates of the school with Mr. Norton, the narrator 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 this simile, Ellison sets up the college as presenting pretense in much the same 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 lawns with pretense predicts his inability to live as a part of the college any longer. He is losing control of his identity, as the narrator mentions explicitly. Denouncing the men they ran into during the drive, the narrator leaves himself on the white dividing line, neither accepted by Dr.
Bledsoe and the college or the men who speak without superficiality such as Trueblood or at the Golden Day. In these highly hyperbolic and metaphorical 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 taking 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 room, 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 also stuck in a hierarchy he does not understand, and will spend the rest of the 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 become 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 than their noise with them down the hall. The knock which preceeds his meeting with Dr.
Bledsoe follows directly after and is rendered by a freshman. That 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 student body toward the chapel where the visitors would be gathered. Tormented by the thought of his meeting with Bledsoe which will follow, he moves in a 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 to 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. He muses on how he aimed his feelings and his speeches toward characters like her. She had spoken of his promise. And, she would be the one he felt the 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 by 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 and more singing. Drawing himself back to the events, the narrator realizes that 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 numb and more in love with the college and what it stands for than ever before. 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 leader, paying homage to his friend and picking up where he had left off.
Barbee ends with deep praise of the school and the progress which Bledsoe has made in continuing the Founder’s mission. Barbee himself falls over at the end of his speech and the narrator realizes that he is blind. Following his departure from the stage, more songs are 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.
Analysis:Feminine imagery surfaces again in the beginning of this chapter as the narrator describes the campus’s atmosphere of budding springtime: fertile with a “feminine fluting”. The looming moon shadowing the landscape throws the imagery into another light with its red glare which he compares to a white man’s bloodshot eye. The image has been cracked and distorted. The disturbed aspect of innocence translates into entrapment as the narrator continues with his illustration. An indirect allusion to the battle royal can be understood as he describes the stage where the millionaires have come down to to experience the “flesh and the blood.
” The last sentence of the paragraph is trapped within parentheses, rhetorically asking if anyone could doubt the authority on this stage. We are asked immediately to doubt the freedom of reality implied within the preceding words. The narrator admits that he too has stridden this stage as a student leader, yet remarking that his words had always echoed back at him. The event at chapel which affects the narrator most is the speech of the Reverend Barbee. Here the reader is faced with yet another example of storytelling within storytelling. Not only is it a story though, it is one 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 underground. Another clue of this man falling into a pattern of the narrator’s life is 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 story for others but cannot see himself. He is hiding his blindness behind the glasses while creating an illusion for the audience to see into and believe.
Chapter 6 Summary:The narrator slowly and regretfully makes his way to Bledsoe’s office after the chapel services. The president responds to him listlessly, reproaching him for not only going to the quarters with Mr. Norton but also taking him inside of the Golden Day. Mockingly, he brings up the incident with Trueblood as well, criticizing the narrator for giving into every want of Norton.
By this point, he can no longer hold in his anger and he explodes, yelling at the narrator for his foolishness. Showing his naivete, the narrator is amazed when he hears that Bledsoe would have expected him to 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 calls the narrator “nigger,” enraging the narrator by using that word. When the narrator denies lying, Bledsoe reveals that he thinks the vet doctor is behind the drive and interrogates him regarding the man, noting that he will 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.
Bledsoe snaps back that it is not Norton’s decision and his understanding cannot 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 does 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 his place at the top by years of manipulation, of “playing the nigger” to some and acting tough to others. Claiming to be impressed by the narrator’s spirit, Bledsoe agrees to give him letters to important friends in New York where he can find a job and then pay his way back in the fall if all goes well.
The narrator must leave 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 the employers will be angered if they are tampered with. Analysis:Leaving the chapel, the narrator feels immediately different and separated 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 would 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. Ellison 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 most 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 the narrator that he does not exist, he is trying to emphasis his size and power over the boy’s. He tells him that “his arms are to short to box” with him. The battle royal comes to mind again and the reader can begin to recognize 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 Trueblood’s. 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 maintain 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 “large and strangely limp”, a perfect representation for the whole which is Bledsoe. Chapter 7 Summary:To the narrator’s annoyance, the vet doctor happens to be on the very same bus for the beginning of his trip.
The narrator could not help but partially 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, the narrator inquires of the vet, only to learn that the vet has been transferred to Washington.
The vet rightly connects his conversation with Norton to the transfer. He begins preaching again to the narrator. He blames the white establishment. The vet exits at the first stop, and leaves the narrator with the parting advice to discover the world and leave the Mr. 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 prospects. The subway ride is his first shock as he is pushed up against a white woman who does not appear to notice. Secondly he is greeted with a larger quantity of black people in Harlem than he expects. Lastly, he encounters a man, Ras, loudly yelling to a crowd. Fearing a riot, the narrator cannot understand why the police do nothing.
Instead, the police show him to Men’s House where he finds a room. Analysis: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 show how their fates intertwine, giving credence to the foreshadowing comments the vet doctor made at the Golden Day. The narrator is not allowed to blot out the memory as he would like and must listen to the vet talk until the first stop. The vet prophetizes even more by speaking of how New York will effect the narrator. His eyes give away his power in foretelling the narrator’s future. He is continually winking at the narrator and his eyes twinkle when he relates to the narrator that though he lives a public life, he is not actually seen.
The play with the visual is in complete opposition to the blindness that Barbee possessed. Although the narrator has a greater appreciation for what Barbee said, more truth lies for him in the twinkling 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 sealed promises raise in him the chance for a positive future along the lines he had always imagined. Yet he is immediately made to feel small and insignificant in reaching New York.
In the subway, he is pressed up against large people who do not notice his presence. Exiting the subway, he alludes to the story of Jonah in the Old Testament by comparing the experience to being thrown up from the belly of a whale. Jonah is one of the few stories 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 allusion, he overwhelmed is by the city he is sent to. He is lost and the police have 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. Bledsoe 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 to their wrists and he imagines that their are messengers, chained to a great deal of money. He makes his way to Mr.
Bates’ office, but does not want to go in too early in case the employer does not like to see Negroes early in the morning. Questioning many other aspects of himself, the narrator has to reconvince 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 letter from him and disappears into another room.
She returns to report that Mr. Bates is busy but will contact him. Disappointed, the narrator repeats the episode with several other secretaries during his first days there, not having better success. He holds onto the letter for Mr.
Emerson because he 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 the letter when he gets back to town. He also thinks about Mr. Norton, writing him a letter asking to meet, hoping that their more intimate relationship 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 not 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. Emerson. Analysis:In accordance with the allusion to the Bible, the only familiar object the narrator finds in his new room is the Bible. It makes him feel homesick. Trying to suppress his old ways and his anger toward Bledsoe, he succeeds 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 as well, dropping his letters in the morning and exploring the city during the afternoon. He feels his life must be properly planned out in order to be 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 pieces 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 he waits expectantly for responses to his sealed envelopes. Already doubting 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 listen 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 walks 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 sits down to breakfast at a diner, he reflects on the manner he must enact, one of vague seriousness to keep people guessing as they did with Bledsoe. He 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 invites him into an office and asks him questions. The narrator is put on edge when asked if he would consider attending another college and if he had opened 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 with Emerson. The man reveals that Emerson is his father and shows him the letter from Bledsoe, which states that the narrator will never be enrolled at the college again, and asks the employers to assist Bledsoe in keeping the narrator from trying to return. The reasons given to the contacts is that the narrator has gone astray and presents a danger to the delicate situation of the college. Dazed, the narrator goes to leave but is asked by Emerson’s son to keep the letter’s contents a secret. The narrator agrees knowing that no one would 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 for playing him like a fool, he resolves to get any job immediately to fund his revenge. He is told to report to the paint plant the next day. Analysis:The narrator meets with a zoot-suiter the next morning when he sets off for his meeting. He is also involved in the race that Grandfather refers to and the narrator is subject to but is resolved to take it at his own pace. He significantly makes the point that he will not be run into the grave and hopes to coast downhill as much as possible. He is resisting the dominating factors of society against him but the narrator insists that one should keep to one path. The man’s speech though is much more rapid than his travel and the narrator cannot keep up with it. All the narrator knows is that he likes 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. He belongs to no community and accordingly everything the man says and does hits the narrator off balance. He cannot even decide whether he feels “pride 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 bay 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 unbusinesslike. The birds are noticed after a period of silence they begin to rapidly flap their wings. It is described as savage. Ellison purposely makes the office both colorful and primitive. The birds flash with life for a moment, singing 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 caging it. The birds can look upon New York from the window and can stretch their 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 by fear of the same white man to move any closer, thus being caged in himself.Any diversion or flash of life he might show could result in his expulsion, so he sits quietly in his cage and waits for his interview to let him fly around the room for a moment. The facial and bodily expressions of the man who interviews him are detailed extensively by Ellison. After every comment he makes, he either looks pained 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 and the mistake the narrator makes is his response that he does not care about the other things beyond the surface. Unable to understand even beyond the 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 something 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 with fear as the narrator leaves the office, again acting as the parallel of his 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 him and picked him clean, like the robin in his song. They have kept him caged 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 his boss. Mr. Kimbro, is very brusque and demanding, putting the narrator immediately on the job with very few instructions and the order not to ask questions. The narrator’s first job is with the pure white paint that the company is known for. When the narrator mixes the wrong ingredient into the 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 the basement as a sort of engineer, his education being years of experience at 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 him, asking him many questions about his past. He gives him a job checking the gauges on paint tanks and then is asked to shovel a mysterious brown pile into the machine. They get along agreeably enough for awhile; Brockway tells 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 the locker room he runs into what he thinks is a union meeting, where men who call each other brothers stare at him suspiciously and question whether they can trust him. Finally they allow him to get to his locker, by which point 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 the tension snap inside him and fights off Mr. Brockway, knocking his teeth out. However, because of their inattention to the gauges in the room, the pressure goes over the allotted mark and Brockway laughing runs from the 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. Analysis:The narrator’s entrance to the paint plant is ominous as he must cross a 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, being sucked up, losing sight and identity. Paint as a substance suggests the property of coverage, of hiding the material beneath the surface with a new, suffocating coat. By joining a plant which produces this covering substance, he becomes one of the tools of its creation. Ironically the companies name is Liberty Paints. Similarly his first task there is to make the pure white 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 the plant for his next task. He is in charge of keeping the gauges on tanks at 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 interlocked 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 his hands on and being left alone by most of society. This echo rings deeply with that of the Prologue. He also tells of how he thought up the paint’s motto. The narrator makes the connection to his own thinking that white is 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 it explodes in his face is symbolic of his inability to control the pressures 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 at this point, he is alarmed by the use of the term “Brother” and is quickly targeted as an enemy and an outsider. He feels stripped by the experience and is again frozen in his tracks. His fate is decided without his voice being allowed and he loses his appetite. The anger he feels even though he does not care to be a part of the group gives precedent for how easily he 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 hatred for unions. It does not matter that the narrator did not belong. He is torn on two sides, between defending himself at the union meeting and then to 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 erupts 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 of 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 the narrator is not quite capable of understanding in his state. He feels covered by nodes as someone in an electric chair. His mind is completely blank. He swims in and out of consciousness for what seems like days until he is again approached by questioning doctors. They argue over the better treatment, one feeling that surgery was best while the other supports his own machine which performs lobotomies without surgery. They discuss castration and his psychology as well. An electric current sent through him causes him to dance and he overhears comments about how blacks have rhythm but is not able to maintain a sense of anger. He is unable to differentiate between the world inside and outside of his eyelids.Feeling lonely and bewildered, a man appears who thrusts cards in is face asking his name. He is unable to answer this or the subsequent cards asking 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 never really knows from what. He is also told that he can no longer work at the plant but will receive ample compensation. The director blends in his mind with Mr. Norton and he asks if he knows the old man. Still feeling part of some scheme that Bledsoe and Norton have going against him, he begins to laugh but the director does not understand. The narrator leaves and wanders out around the plant, feeling strangely disconnected from his mind and body.Analysis: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 an 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 narrator has become a science experiment. He is encased in a white world that he has tried to control for his own means but could not. At one point, he notices 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 they have been successful when the narrator admits that he cannot feel his head. 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 discuss 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 and his past, yet is unsuccessful for the most part. For example, he hears songs from his youth but they are interrupted by pain. He open his eyes from the dreams and can only see glass and metal bearing down upon him. He becomes incapable of distinguishing between his body and the machines.The future foreshadowed when he crosses the bridge has been fulfilled. He forgets his own name and his mother’s name. They next ask if he remembers 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 this 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 too far off the mark when he asks the hospital director if he knows Mr. Norton or Dr. Bledsoe. The narrator has become the robin of his song and is fully picked clean.Chapter 12 Summary:Still foggy, the narrator stumbles back toward the Men’s House. Coming out 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, she will not let him return to Men’s House until he is fully recovered saying that he needed a woman to take care of him. The narrator hesitantly agrees 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 corruption and offers him a place to stay if he ever needs it.Returning to the House, he feels inferior because of his hospital stay and lowly employment and realizes that he can no longer reside there. In the lobby, he thinks that he sees Dr. Bledsoe from the back, as the familiar head administers to a small audience. Dumping a bucket of foul brown liquid 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 runs out into the street. When he returns, the porter tells him he must not come 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 his 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 a disappointment to the woman who expected him to be worthy to his race. He remains frozen like this until he is awoken by his first northern winter.Analysis:The narrator’s entrance into Manhattan is a re-entrance. As he emerges from the subway onto Lenox Avenue, he is again belched from the whale and thrown into an overwhelming surge of people and things. Enormous light skin women press upon him as one woman did the first time he rode the subway. In this 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 joins the Brotherhood. Still, it is not surprising that since he has been entirely stripped of his identity, the caged and picked bird collapses after he is thrown into Harlem a second time. Mary, the mother figure as implied by her 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 is pliant in her hands. She leads him to the dark coolness of her house which contrasts greatly with the bright, white world of the hospital and the orange sun which makes him faint outside of the subway. She replenishes some 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 to 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 before 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 has already been done. The narrator wanders back to Men’s House and instantly feels inferior as his overalls differentiate him from thced that the new 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 shedding off the pretense of his existence for quite awhile.Chapter 13 Summary:Finally unable to contain his pent-up agitation, the narrator rushes forth 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 of home with the sharp smell of baking yams in the air. The vendor butters a yam for him and he is overwhelmed with homesickness. The memories that sweep up within him continue to boil the rage against his past and he finds himself verbally attacking Bledsoe and laughing outloud. Running back for another yam, he begins to think of yams as a life policy. Why should he be ashamed of his past or upbringing? He decides to eat them whenever he wants, and he will be happy.Continuing down the street, he nears a crowd and hears an old woman sobbing. The narrator realizes that the streets are filled not with junk but with that woman’s personal belongings. The crowd is animated in their opposition to the eviction occurring. Blurring the event, the narrator recognizes a 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 the street, ignoring the old couple’s cries. They state that the event is legal and beyond their control. With each small piece of life the narrator notices, he becomes more emotionally and viscerally involved. The couple attempts to push inside to pray but is refused. The crowd is angered and 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 them to all go inside the house and pray. The crowd works to carry the belonging back inside and the narrator moves inside as well. He is surprised when he notices a few white people as part of the crowd as questions which side they 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 a 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 man is back and talking to him.Impressed by how his speech moved the crowd to action, the man takes him to get a coffee and talk. The narrator is cynical 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 is 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 with the man and the eviction. Then he thinks of Mary and her strength and feels better.Analysis:The hot water filling the narrator’s body needs to be neutralized by the cold winter before the narrator feels safe venturing out of his hibernation. He mentions how the he is fueled by an inner fire to resist the cold. The whitened and chilled Harlem due to winter is symbolized in the store signs he passes advertising for beauty through the whitening of black skin. The 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 the skin” of the yams. He consumes the food of his childhood, of the South, with homesickness. He refuses the urge to repress his natural tastes and Southern past in order to conform as he once thought was important. He eats the yam, goes back for seconds, and uses this food as a point to attack the negative aspects of his Southern upbringing. He attacks Bledsoe as an eater of lowly 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 one 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 the skin and remarks that if he led his life as liberally as the experience of the yams had suggested, he would be a much happier person. The last yam he eats, however, is frostbitten. His efforts to avoid Bledsoe’s trap have not been fully successful as of yet.The dispossession the narrator feels at the hospital resurfaces as he comes upon an eviction in progress. An unclean bitter taste fills his mouth which is still reeling from the frozen yam when he realizes that he too is being 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 fears it being extracted. The dispossession causes him to feel nauseated. His pain 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 furniture instead of acting out in violence. He trusts his feelings and takes charge 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 him immediately as he comments that Jack acts like he is playing a part in a play. However, he dismisses the uncertainty and does not trust himself. Jack attempts to convince him that the old couple was a part of dead history and they must work on strengthening those with more potential. Jack hits on a very important point though which describes how the narrator will later illustrate himself when he becomes more enlightened regarding his situation of invisibility. He claims the old couple is “dead-in-living…a unity of opposites”. Ironically, though, Jack tries to persuade the narrator to throw off part himself and become a new being, convin ST Chapter 14 Summary:Nearing Mary’s house, the narrator smells cabbage and is instantly depressed as it reminds him of his poor youth. He also realizes that the amount of cabbage she had made lately must mean she was short of money. He had not 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 Jack over coffee. Mary calls to him and tells him to make sure to eat dinner. 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. The 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 meeting.At the party in the richly decorated room, the narrator senses a strange familiarity. Brother Jack leads him around, introducing him to several members, many of which have heard of his rousing speech at the eviction.They speak to Emma, Jack’s mistress, for a few minutes as she pours them drinks and the narrator is surprised at her directness and lack of subtlety, especially as she asks Jack within hearing distance if the narrator is black enough for the job. On guard, the brothers sit down to business and attempt to explain the narrator’s mission. Jack asks him if he would like to be the next Booker T. Washington. The narrator replies that he was not as great as the Founder. Jack illustrates that the scientific and realist methodology they hold will make him into an even greater figure than Washington. Feeling as if there is nothing to lose, the narrator accepts the mission and is told he will start the next day. He will also be given a new residence and a new identity. Jack gives him money to more than cover his debts to Mary and the meeting breaks up.The rest of the evening, the narrator mingles with the new crowd, approached by many of them to converse over different social and political issues. One man who corners him is drunk and asks him to sing a spiritual. Outraged, 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 their 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.Analysis: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 sacrificing 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 treatment toward him and the guilt he feels from letting her down. In order that she 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 position than when we last saw him in a car. He is not behind the wheel, figuratively as well as literally. He subconsciously drives Norton into the slave quarters, unwillingly revealing the truth behind Bledsoe and others. On this occasion, he is in even less control of their direction and is driven into uncharted territory. He notes that the Park is deceivingly calm and peaceful yet there are dangerous animals lurking in the nearby zoo. The danger lurking behind pretense is a theme which will strike at the narrator continuously.The Chthonian sets the thematic tone for the Brotherhood as he senses that he has experienced it all before, for good reason. The feeling that there should be an elevator on the wall mirrors his uncomfortable experience with 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 even 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. The 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 narrator awoke and heard voices and saw doctors hovering over him watching. He was asked condescending questions which they had made him unable to answer. Similarly in this situation, he cannot answer what seems like a very easy question. However it also parallels the situation in the hospital because the question they have put to him surrounds his identity. He is hesitant concerning Washington because he feels the Founder was a better man. Much negative criticism surrounds Washington in society and Ellison would have 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 formed the world that made Bledsoe a leader. Instead of raising questions on Washington, the narrator replaces him with another, even stating that the 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 be 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 also given another identity to follow as they present him with a new name. Few ask what his name is but presume that they must make him into something else.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 later 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 himself 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 can 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 of science, with the fast people in the Brotherhood, and with time. The clock back in his room ticks with an urgent need to catch up, he remarks. One can almost hear his grandfather laugh as the narrator has begun to run even faster.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 cannot take the banging and finds himself banging back. Standing by the pipe, he notices a figure of a Negro with overly exaggerated features which he determines is a bank. Disgusted that Mary is keeping the object around, he takes it to hit the pipes and the head breaks off. Just then, Mary is heard 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 that he is not really listening. He tries to bring up the money he has received to pay her back but is not sure how to go about it. She tells him not to talk about his debt, so he tries another tactic, finally convincing her that he won money playing the numbers. He gives her a hundred dollar bill and 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 of it on the street. Each time, someone seems to suspect him of pulling off 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 feels proud at the mention of his rabble-rousing. Reaching the stores, he then buys an expensive suit and accessories. He contacts Jack and is shown his new apartment after he finishes shopping.Analysis:The narrator wakes up the next morning in a huff because someone is banging 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 Mary. 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 chapter. 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 pipes and then to this bank, acting out with more rage than at almost any other point in the novel.The bank’s structure is such that the hand flips the coins into the smiling mouth. The degrading Negro image must be fed with money to be kept happy. The “self-mocking image” drives the narrator crazy and he uses it to smash the pipes with. The narrator notes that in his hands the bank looks more like it is being strangled than like it is smiling. It then breaks apart spilling its coins as the narrator yells at his neighbors to stop acting like uncivilized rural Negroes. He destroys the object that he identifies them with but more importantly he attempts to destroy the fear inside of himself. The bank is a metaphor for the recurring nightmare of his laughing grandfather. It is a character yessing the white man, or “acting the Negro”, and on the morning of his new role in society, the narrator cannot stand 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 thinks are gold coins. Filling his pockets with coins, consuming them, he is also 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 and haunts him through and through. Twice he tries to drop off the broken bank but is caught both times. The people who catch him are employed because he is artificially shedding what is still a part if him, which still consumes him. He may try to take on a new identity, but instead he must stash the broken Negro in his briefcase and carry it with him. The briefcase then sits 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 and feels clean and refreshed, but the broken image still sits right in front of him.Chapter 16 Summary:That night, the narrator is picked up by brothers for a rally they are to 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 speak last. The event takes place at a boxing arena and the narrator sits worrying over how his speech will be received. Feeling extremely self-conscious, he 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 himself taking on the new role. Noticing the police on horseback nearby, he hurries back inside .He is told the police are to protect them, then Brother Jack 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 voice. 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 aspects of the materials he had read, but speaks powerfully about dispossession and being an uncommon people and wins the crowd over. Reaching a pause in his flow of words, he turns the speech to his own life. Jack warns him not to lose his effectiveness, but he shakes him off and continues in his emotional 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 at their reaction, he learns that they disapprove of the rawly emotive quality of his speech and yearn for a more rational, scientific approach. They found him to be dangerous and backwards. Jack however says that he was powerful and the approach of the Brotherhood only needs to be learned. The narrator is to be sent to months of paid training with Brother Hambro. The narrator returns to his apartment exhausted and rethinks the course of his speech, recognizing that his manner had actually been quite different than in college. He is optimistic about his future in the Brotherhood.Analysis: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 of 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 the night before he speaks and has an element of failure directly connected with it. When the narrator first arrives at the arena, he is led in and given instructions as he was for the battle royal. He knows that he must please the audience with this speech in order to advance any further in this vein of his life as was true in chapter one as well.The first objects he sees in the waiting room are pictures of prize fighters on the wall. He tells the reader that he never thought he would be in the arena of which he had heard his father speak of the popular fighter who lost his sight in the ring. The narrator decides that it must have occurred in the ring he is present at, thus placing the sight of the blinding in the same ring where he must fight for a position among the Brotherhood. He must fight for acceptance, as he did in the beginning of the story, but he also must accept the consequences of blindly following a movement he knows little about. He notes that the fighter in the picture is so battered by his fight 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 to box in order to go to college and now whose identity will be further blurred 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 he 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 of Black Folk. The moment of double sight enables the reader to have a better understanding of how it feels to be a member of a subordinated people in that the reader can see how one’s personality is inevitably split by the knowledge of themselves and of the self which most of society refuses to see beyond. By employing this allusion to the black literary tradition, Ellison provides deft social commentary on the state of the narrator, a state which 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 a 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 takes the stage to speak, feeling uncomfortable but pressing on nevertheless.The speech he gives, however, is far from what the Brotherhood wants from him. He speaks from his heart, nearly crying at the end of the speech. Many Brothers, however, think he has done more danger than good. His oration is not prewritten and he notes that he forgets the technical aspects of the Brotherhood he is supposed to address. After he finishes, the Brothers drag him out of the arena and criticize his technique. He will have to be trained to not address his primitive emotions. He will have to be indoctrinated into 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 show 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 well 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. He thinks over the training which had been more work than classwork in school as he had daily reading, discussions, and speakers to hear at night. Jack asks him about Hambro. He tells the narrator that he has heard good reports 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 while keeping in line with the discipline. Jack takes the narrator to see where his office will be located and they run into Brother Tarp, whom he is told is reliable and vigorous for the cause.The next morning at the office, the narrator is introduced to the Brothers and Sisters in Harlem as their new spokesman. Jack tells them he has been hired to increase membership and arouse interest. Suddenly, Brother Tod Clifton enters the meeting late. The narrator recognizes him as a possible rival. His reason for his tardiness is a run in with Ras the Exhorter whom the narrator realizes he heard speak on his very first day in New York. Jack reinforces that the organization is against violence and to be wary of Ras.The committee leaves and the office members work at organizing and dividing labor. Having a chance to talk with Clifton, the narrator likes him as the 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 about the lost potential of the intelligent, handsome Clifton and how he would have killed him otherwise. The narrator tries to talk sense but Ras rejects him. Clifton strikes him down again and finally, the narrator succeeds in 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 Frederick 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 thinks back on his past and realizes that he has reached a place that would have satisfied him even had he stayed in college. It had been an unexpected transformation. His life is ordered and successful and he is pleased.Analysis:When the narrator is called late at night by Brother Jack to meet, he hopes that it is a call to action. The bar where they meet has startling pictures 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 steel society. These classifications are interesting as the paintings they belong 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 been 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 that the bullfighter picture presented grace, setting up a clear contrast with Jack’s vision of it. Furthermore, Jack’s vision of the steel society is to be construed as foolish by the reader. The message is: April Fools! He is not correct in his assumptions. Thus, when Jack praises the narrator on his work with Hambro, the Brotherhood trainer, the narrator s eyes quickly shift to yet another painting he had not noticed earlier. In this painting, 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 tossed 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 able 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 earlier pages by the narrator that Jack had red hair. Perhaps, in that sense, one could make the symbolic leap that Jack represents the red cape which teases the narrator and manipulates him. Jack can only be undone when, as the bull succeeds in the last picture, the narrator overcomes the manipulation and 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 can 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 the first street meeting which the narrator arranges. Ellison writes that Ras 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 in the bar create another pair of characters which could fulfill the figures 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 is close. He nearly cuts Clifton’s throat when he gets his knife but cannot bring himself to do so because of the high esteem he holds Clifton in. He 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 away. 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 dignity 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 Jack’s cape.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 his 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. He then shares some of his history with the narrator, relating his time on a 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 the man.Brother Wrestrum visits as well on the day of the mystery note, and incites suspicion with the narrator because he seems meddlesome. He speaks of a change being needed and warns that they must watch themselves. He criticizes 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 Brotherhood emblem interests the narrator. He agrees to alert the committee of the idea.A phone call interrupts their conversation and the narrator is asked for an interview by a respected publication. The narrator agrees to be interviewed by a Harlem publication after trying to get them to speak to Clifton, mainly to annoy Wrestrum who had been motioning to him on what to say.Two weeks later, the narrator attends a strategy meeting. Unexpectedly, an interrogation begins concerning the narrator’s work. Wrestrum has brought charges against him to the committee. Wrestrum announces that the narrator is a danger to the Brotherhood and charges him with attempting to overshadow 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 also names an unknown plot against the Brotherhood that the narrator has evolved, through which he trains supporters to only listen to him, for example. The narrator defends himself but the committee must talk it over. They decide that the article is not harmful but state that they will need to investigate the other claims. Until the accusations are cleared, the narrator has the 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 to the new assignment.Analysis:Brother Tarp, whom the narrator calls into his office when he receives an anonymous note warning him to be careful in the white man’s world, is instantly linked with the character of the grandfather. Tarp notices that the narrator looks as if he has seen a ghost. The narrator sees his dead grandfather’s face on Tarp when and is only able to look him in the eyes 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 protecting his family from the white man. He is part of a chain gang for the nineteen years but comments that the punishment was never fully paid and will never be in the terms his oppressors wanted. He makes the significant point that he received his punishment for saying No. The consequences when a black man says no to a white man is contrasted by the grandfather’s dying notion of yessing a white man to death. The two men provide two different options of resisting the white power, neither of which the narrator is capable of discerning against or deciding between at this point in his narrative. Tarp gives the narrator the chain link he broke to escape the chain gang to give 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 reflect on the inherent power associated with the symbolic link as he will keep it with him for the rest of the novel, often grasping it in times when he is being attacked or questioned. Tarp himself is a link to the deep and dire struggle against oppression. Tarp was forced to escape from actual chains whereas the narrator is kept running by the men in power who have stripped him of his own meaning but whom he runs to please. By giving the narrator 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 is disgusted by the link. As one of the power structure, he finds the symbolic 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 called down to a committee meeting and brought up on charges that Wrestrum has accused him with. The support the narrator has gathered in his community 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 man, 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, more 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 down 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 a part of the Brotherhood, one must give himself completely. By allowing himself to dissolve and accept, he sticks himself further in the muck of 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 with enthusiasm. A woman approaches him after in hopes that he will talk over some points in the ideology. She is beautiful and persuades him to come over 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 the Woman Question. Soon, she leads him into the bedroom, ignoring a ringing telephone.He resists for awhile asking about her husband and making her get the phone, but finally gives into her seductive ways. Her husband appears during the night but appears not not alarmed by the narrator’s presence. 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 against him. He wonders if the husband was some part of a test. He calls the woman but is too embarrassed to ask her. He sits paranoid in his office the next day but by late afternoon realizes that they would have already called if there was a problem. A week or so passes and he watches for changes in the Brothers towards him, but detects none. Soon he is summoned to another emergency meeting which alerts him to Clifton’s disappearance and reinstates him in Harlem to deal with the resulting crisis.Analysis:The narrator’s struggles with the definition of humanity. He has an affair with a white woman who feigns interest extreme interest in the Brotherhood’s 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 are both forced into submission and oppression, she being a woman and he being 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 has become nearly invisible as well. Therefore she too is given no name by Ellison.Yet in her relationship to the narrator, she is able to dominate since she creates a division among his thoughts. He is painfully divided on how to 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 him closer to her large white bed and one is reminded of Trueblood’s dream where a white woman in her manor house appears out of a clock, out of time, and sinks into her large bed. This threat to Trueblood is manifested in horrible reality as he finds himself raping his daughter, his own flesh and blood. Similarly, the narrator is strangely related to the woman but also falls 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 and her husband, running out in the middle of the night and spends the entire next week worrying whether he was tricked into some scam by the Brotherhood. He continues to run, controlled by other minds. Instances in his life have no meaning outside of the Brotherhood. Consequently, when he learns that Clifton, one of his best friends, has disappeared, he thinks not of Clifton 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 time he has been gone. Brother Maceo, a good contact, is not where the narrator expects to find him, at the Jolly Dollar bar near his office. The other men in the bar treat him like a stranger when he greets them as brothers and Barrelhouse, the bartender, has to calm them down. He tells the narrator that much of the community feels similarly to the men in the bar, that the Brotherhood has let them down.Returning to his office, Tarp has disappeared too and the decorations in his office were stripped away.The next morning, many members appear at the office who he sent to look for Clifton. However he knows that the atmosphere is still not right and he suspects that a committee meeting may be occurring without his notification. 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 performing on the street nearby. Not aware who the man is at first, he watches Clifton display a dancing, paper Sambo doll accompanied by a catchy spiel. Disgusted and intrigued, the narrator slowly realizes the street seller’s identity and their eyes meet. The police notice the performance and Clifton lifts his items and takes off. Left on the sidewalk bewildered, the narrator remarks that Clifton is out of history and decides to forget him. He heads back to the office, but notices a police chase. Feeling somewhat responsible for Clifton, he follows in case he will need to pay a fine. Clifton resists the arrest however and fights back. Frozen, the narrator watches Clifton crumple to the ground and realizes that he has been shot. He attempts to help but the cops do not allow him to come closer. Finally they ask him questions 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 to 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 which he has not been able to help. He realizes that he has been asleep and ignorant.Analysis:With Clifton’s disappearance, Harlem seems to have become distorted and changed. The district does not resembles the place the narrator left, but one he has seen before. Visions from his past appear in the text. He passes 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. The Brotherhood greeting he gives in the Jolly Dollar is met with criticism and 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 the 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 exit of supportive members and the positive changes he had created as well.The narrator is made glaringly aware of his dispossession from Harlem and the Brotherhood when he reaches the strategy meeting to find it already in session. The district is altered and he is no longer welcome at Brotherhood 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 place of dispossession, the narrator buys new shoes because he feels the need to possess something of his own. Thus, by giving his running feet new wear he feels temporarily rejuvenated. He finds his desire for new shoes to be a strange need but it temporarily satisfies the void left by his race for identity.The Sambo doll that Clifton is found to be selling is an allusion to the Negro bank that the narrator had found in Mary’s apartment. Both are disgustingly degrading toward African-Americans, promoting stereotypical 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. Cracking underneath the deep hypocrisy the Brotherhood represents and which Ras exhorted, Clifton moves to be a symbol of the other extreme. Perhaps, the reader must wonder though, if Clifton had fallen into the advice given by the grandfather. He is yessing the white men to death. The police men note something more harsh and bitter in Clifton than his being an illegal vendor. Clifton was tired of fighting back the fears he felt when challenged by Ras 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 toy, 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 dance, controlled by the Brotherhood, but he wishes to erase the Clifton episode from his mind. Ironically, he instead takes comfort in knowing that he has found the Brotherhood and decides to make a greater push toward bringing others in as well.The Values of the Invisible ManApril 13, 2000Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is the story of an educated black man who has been oppressed and controlled by white men throughout his life. As the narrator, he is nameless throughout the novel as he journeys from the South, where he studies at an all-black college, to Harlem where he joins a Communist-like party known as the Brotherhood. Throughout the novel, the 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 to 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 entire story can be summed up when the narrator says “I’m an invisible man and it placed me in a hole- or showed me the hole I was in….” During the novel, the narrator values several important things which shape his identity as well as his future. Through his experiences and the people he has met, the narrator discovers the important values of his education, his invisibility, and the meaning of his grandfather’s advice.From the very beginning of the novel the narrator values his education. His education first brings him a calfskin briefcase, when the superintendent 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 some day it will be filled with important papers that will help shape the destiny of your people.” The narrator treasures the briefcase so much because it symbolizes his education. He carries it throughout the whole novel, and it is the only object he takes into the cellar from his former life. Next, the 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 and I ran awkwardly on the floor.” The narrator could now afford to take his 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 multitude of uneducated black men at the time. The narrator values his education from the very beginning of the novel, as it brings him many rewards.Towards the end of the novel, the narrator beings to value his invisibility. 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 was and yet I was unseen. It was frightening and as I sat there I sensed another 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 mistaking his identity, but it allows him to slip by Ras the Exhorter unnoticed. Next, 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 coal…..I 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 hand 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, aware of my invisibility…live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites.”Here, the narrator plans his return to society, when he will carry out his plan to fight against whites. As the narrator develops and matures towards the end of the novel, he realizes that the invisibility he once cursed can 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 grandfather states”Son, after I’m gone I want you to keep up the good fight… Live with your head in the lion’s mouth. I want you to overcome ’em with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction, let ’em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open.”He first grasps this advice in Chapter 24, after Tod Clifton’s funeral and after the Brotherhood betrays him. These words have haunted him his whole life, and now he fully understands and believes this advice. This new understanding leads the narrator to develop a new plan. He decides to follow 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 finally 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 his understanding of it completes his search for self identity.Everyone has values. At the beginning of the novel, the narrator values his education, as it brings him many rewards. As he develops and matures, he 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 in 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 cannot completely relate to all of them. One value that I share with the narrator is education. Education is a huge part of my life, as it plays a large role 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 and 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 the experiences that he and his grandfather had been, mainly because I have grown up in a different time period. The narrator faced constant oppression throughout the entire novel. He managed to survive and succeed because of his values. Throughout Ellison’s novel, the narrator possessed the strong values of education, invisibility, and his grandfathers advice.