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Thursday, September 12, 2013


Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison

1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel you read according to the elements of plot you've learned in past courses (exposition, inciting incident, etc.).  Explain how the narrative fulfills the author's purpose (based on your well-informed interpretation of same).
The story is being told by a black man who is never given a name.  He explains the story of his life and how he became "invisible."  The story begins in the present with the narrarator explaining that he is an "invisible man."  He's not invisible to the eye, just invisible because people refuse to see him.  After introducing himself, he goes back and tells his story.  The narrarator is a strong public speaker and gives a speech in front of some important white men.  In return, they give him a scholarship to a prestigious black college.   The rising action begins when he is expelled from the college three years later for showing an important white man what black life is really like rather than idealizing it.  The narrarator goes to Harlem to look for a job and finds one mixing paint, but his boss doesn't trust him and turns on him.  They get into a bit of a fight and the paint mixer explodes putting the narrarator in the hospital.  He is taken to the home of Mary to heal.  He is offered a job to speak for the Brotherhood and only takes it so he can repay Mary for all she has done for him.  Leading into the climax, a member of the brotherhood is shot and killed by white police for selling dolls on the street without a permit.  The narrarator holds a funeral for him and the Brotherhood gets angry for his act of independence.  Into the falling action, a riot breaks out due to the pent up anger about the murder.  The police try to lynch the narrarator so he runs and falls into a man hole.  The police laugh and close him in.  The narrarator remains underground forever.
This story fulfills the author's purpose of uncovering a common black man's hidden emotions during the Harlem period by guiding the audience through his story. The fact that the narrator doesn't have a name adds to the feeling of invisibility that he explains facing throughout his story.

2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel. Avoid cliches.
Individual identity being hindered by racism.  The narrator goes through life trying to make a name for himself.  Every time that he would get close, the color of his skin would get in the way.  For example, when the narrarator finally finds a job in Harlem working for the paint mixer, his boss (the paint mixer) suspects him of coalescing with unions which eventually leads to the narrator being hospitalized.

3. Describe the author's tone. Include a minimum of three excerpts that illustrate your point(s).
The tone ranges from bitter and cynical to optimistic and encouraging.
1.) Bitter: "I looked at Mr. Norton and stood up, thinking that now was a good time to leave; but he was listening to Trueblood so intensely he didn't even see me, and I sat down again, cursing the farmer silently.  To hell with his dream!" P. 57
2.) Cynical: "Meanwhile I enjoy my life with the compliments of Monopolated Light & Power.  Since you never recognized me even when in closest contact with me, and since, no doubt, you'll hardly believe that I exist, it won't matter if you know that I tapped a power line leading into the building and ran it into my hole in the ground."  P. 13
3.). Optimistic:  "I listened with fascination, my eyes glued to the white line dividing the highway as my thoughts attempted to sweep back to the times of which he spoke."  P.  38-39
4. Describe a minimum of ten literary elements/techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the author's purpose, the text's theme and/or your sense of the tone. For each, please include textual support to help illustrate the point for your readers. (Please include edition and page numbers for easy reference.) 
1.) Motif: invisibility- "but he was listening to Trueblood so intensely he didn't even see me."  P. 57 "He's invisible, a walking personification of the Negative, the most perfect achievement of your dreams sir!"  P. 94. The author utilized this motif as part of the title; the main character was "invisible" because everyone refused to see him for who he really was due to the fact that he was black.
2.). Imagery: "I remember the yellowed globes of frosted glass making lacy silhouettes on the gravel and the walk of the leaves and branches above us as we moved slow through the dusk so restless with scents of lilac, honeysuckle and verbena, and the feel of spring greenness."  P. 109. Ellison uses really detailed imagery because the places being described are from the narrator's memory and the narrarator is portrayed as an intelligent speaker.  The detailed characteristics show the main character's intelligence.
3.). Onomontopia:  " vibrant with somber chapel bells.  Bong!  Bong!  Bong!"  P. 109  This added to the tone of the moment.  The narrator dreads going to church in fear of getting kicked out of the school and the bongs show that it's time for church to begin.
4.). Oxymoron:  "I looked at the guests on the platform; they sat with that alert relaxation with which they always met our upturned eyes."  P. 115. This observation just adds to the narrarator's character.  It shows his high level of thinking.
5.). Parallelism:  "Gradually she increased its volume, until at all times the voice seemed to become a disembodied force that sought to enter her, to violate her, shaking her, rocking her rhythmically, as though it had become the source of her being, rather than the fluid web of her own creation.  P.  116
6.). Characterization:  Ellison uses direct characterization when introducing new characters because each character is developed by the narrarator's perception of them.  Which he explains whenever he meets someone new.  "Like some of the guests, he wore striped trousers and a swallow-tail coat with black braided lapels topped by a rich ascot tie."  P. 114
7.)  First person narration: "It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization that everyone else appears to have been born with:  That I am nobody but myself.  But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!"  P.  15  The fact that the main character is telling the story supports the theme and he describes how he becomes invisible.
8.)  Protagonist:  The narrator is the protagonist throughout the story and he talks of his hardships in life.  "But now I felt a sudden fit of blind terror.  I was unused to darkness.  It was as though I had suddenly found myself in a dark room filled with poisonous cottonmouths.  I could hear the bleary voices yelling insistently for the battle royal to begin."  P. 21
9.)  Music references:  Ellison made many references to songs; he tied music and the Jazz Age into the story by having the narrarator make references to songs.  "Then somehow I came out of it, ascending hastily from this underworld of sound to hear Louis Armstrong innocently asking, What did I do to be so black and blue?"  P.  12
10.)  Diction: The author used slang when black people spoke in dialogue to make their characters more convincing and believable.  "We ain't doing so bad, suh.  'Fore they heard 'bout what happened to us out here I couldn't git no help from from nobody."  P. 52


  1. Wow, that was intense! I had no idea what the book was about, but after reading your literature analysis I am tempted to read it myself.
    Overall I have no critiques and you did and awesome job!

  2. I have to agree with Amara. I had no idea what the book was about, but now I actually have a sense of what happens in the Invisible Man. My favorite part of your literary analysis is the tone. You took the time to find three different tone and quotes. Good job, Melissa!

  3. Great job Melissa! I read this book as well and found that you touched on the many themes portrayed in this book. I really particularly like your connection you made with the music influences Elliot incorporated into the novel.

  4. I had no idea the book was about a black man; I always thought it was literally about a guy who could turn invisible (embarrassing childlike thoughts). I like your quote for the first person narration!