Analyze This! - Invisible Man
Choose a symbol, a character, or an event to analyze in the novel, Invisible Man. Elaborate on your analysis here in a comment and respond to your peers! Ralph Ellison uses innumerable literary devices in this novel to send complex messages about identity, society, and the individual. What do YOU think he's saying?
2/3/2013 05:46:00 am
Make sure you include your full name!!
2/3/2013 11:36:33 am
I really enjoyed Chapter 11-13. Ellison transformed the Invisible Man from a schoolboy who follows the wishes of opressor (i.e. Grandfather, Mr. Blodsoe, the Reverend) to the max. He's not taking a new path because he can't remember who he is but creating a new person. He's not the college black student from chapter 1-10, no he's not afraid anymore. We see that when he throws spittoon on his head and when he's giving a speech to let the black women back in her home to pry.Not even that we see him becoming a Sothern, he eat the yam and vendors knows he's from the south and IM is not afraid to admitted infact he goes to say "I yam, I am" he not like what we see him in chapter 9 where he doesn't order grits and pork, but instead toast and orange juice to make him less Southern. He doesnt care anymore, he pity the men back at the Men Housing for thinking of the post-Civil War dreams.
2/3/2013 12:05:48 pm
I just want to say that one character I found a bit interesting was Homer A. Barbee. One thing that I found particularly notable was the fact that after that entire moving, tear-jerking, "insightful" speech, that entire story where he urges his listeners to "see" and hear and feel what he's describing, he turns out to be blind. Now we can't assume that he was blind his entire life, but I can't help but think that this is a symbol of some kind. The way the invisible man reacts to his words (and there's no doubt he has quite an array of emotions during this speech) definitely means something, and the fact that this is a blind man elliciting such deep emotions that makes the narrator feel as though something is being revealed, is quite telling. I do believe it may have something to do with the fact that this man, the one who apparently traveled and knew the Founder quite well, one who is apparently lifting the veil from the eyes of the Blacks, is blind.This can definitely be analyzed much more.
2/4/2013 12:29:23 am
The surprise of Barbee's blindness definitely bears significance, Afeefeh; I agree with you there. I also would challenge you to take this a step further... Could this be an allusion? And if so, what could it tell us? How does it complicate the meaning? It's very difficult, in the literary canon, to discuss blindness without even remotely alluding to Oedipus Rex (and Tiresias, the blind prophet!). So, yes, you're right; this can definitely be analyzed further. See this link for more allusions: http://z7.invisionfree.com/Invisible_Man/ar/t75.htm
2/4/2013 01:09:38 pm
I would have to agree with Afeefeh Homer A. Barbee’s character is very attention-grabbing. As he preaches among the students it almost seems as if the Narrator himself is blind to accept what he is trying to say. And before the service begins in the chapel the narrator mentions that all people were “moving not in a mood of worship but of judgment”, which in a sense proves that the service would be more of an evaluation of African Americans rather than individuals gathering in belief (Ellison 109). The allusion of his blindness may even be that despite the absence of being able to visualize his surroundings, Barbee’s character contradicts Oedipus Rex because as Oedipus is blind to the truth of his actual existence and his fate that is tolling on his life unknowingly, he isn’t literally blind; on the other hand, Barbee is a blind character but is able to judge and make assumptions based on his ability of self-knowledge which Oedipus doesn’t have because of his blindness.
2/4/2013 07:27:22 am
Throughout the novel, the Invisible Man seems uncertain about where his actions will lead him. He doubts his abilities when he knows that he is capable of doing things that are not considered the norm at that time. When he encounters the character, the vet, on the bus ride to Harlem, he was skeptical about what the vet was telling him. The vet was giving the Invisible Man advice that he knew would soon help him out. The only problem was the I.M. did not see it that way. The I.M. was blind and refused to believe what the vet was saying even though it was true. As a matter of fact, when the vet said "don't be a complete fool in order to succeed," the I.M. looked at it as an insult. Slowly, but surely the I.M. started to realize that the vet was right because right when he stepped into Harlem he began dreaming of all the things he could be and everything Harlem may have in store for him. When a reader looks deeper into the vet, he/she will understand that he is, in a way, a eye-opener for the I.M. What the vet told the I.M. made him view a different perspective on his life rather than just his own perception and the other dominant white race's perception. The vet's wise words will only be useful if the I.M. takes them into consideration. This made the audience realize that the I.M. can indeed "be [his] own father" only if he realizes the fact that he holds the ultimate decision...not the dominant white race. If I.M. continues to think the way he does now then he won't be able to "come out of the fog"...he will remain forever invisible.
2/5/2013 01:17:00 pm
I think that the invisible man doesn't understand when he should take advice and when he shouldn't. His grandfather's advice, in my opinion, will only lead him towards a pth of seld-destruction because what he is doing no by being submissive is going to rid him of his voice and identity. However I agree with you that he should've taken this advice. It seems he takes bad advice and ignores the good ones because of his grandfather's speech on his deathbed.
2/4/2013 09:35:55 am
One character that I consider a symbol is Dr. Bledsoe. Dr. Bledsoe has many different qualities/traits that differ from the rest of the characters and it’s who he is that unmasks one of the themes of the novel. His manipulative trait has gotten him to where he is now due to the fact he’s manipulated his way to his title. He’s fooled not only the whites but also the blacks in order to gain this power. He goes through great lengths taking advantage of individuals such as Mr. Norton and Invisible Man; using Mr. Norton for the funding of the college and having IM portray the fake reality that African Americans haven’t made any mistakes recently. He masks the reality from the white society. His actions linger into the life of Invisible Man. Dr. Bledsoe tells IM that “damn what he wants! We take these white folks where we want them to go, we show them what we want to see” basically pointing out how much power IM truly has, he just hasn’t discovered it yet. That the White Men can tell IM what he wants but at the end of the day it’s he who ultimately controls the wheel. I feel as though through Dr. Bledsoe's manipulative trait, Invisible Man character is slowly being unraveled to the readers.
2/4/2013 08:06:27 pm
One symbol that appears to continuously make entrances in the novel is the Bible. The Bible seems to be affiliated with some type of revival or regeneration of life or self, whether it is good or bad. When the narrator arrives at the Men’s House, he sees the bible; the book reminds him of home, of the old days, and he realizes that he is in New York to create a new person and live a new life. Also, in Chapter 13, we see the black family being evicted from their houses, and the narrator spots a bible in the hands of the family. Also, the woman continuously begs to go into the house and pray. I think all these religious references go back to Thomas Frost’s baptism flick. It is true that characters aren’t being submerged in water; however, the characters washes through events that change them. The family, for instance, is going through an experiment that might indeed change their life, revive them. The narrator, more specifically, has gone through different experiences that are enabling him of recreating himself and becoming an entirely new person.
2/4/2013 11:42:41 pm
"The truth is the light and light is the truth"
Ali Reda Jeafar
2/5/2013 07:38:37 am
what a quote, genius
2/5/2013 10:38:22 am
Through everything we've read and discussed about the novel it's been apparent to me that everything goes back to this idea of "white is right" and black is just nothing. When thinking about light, one can hypothesize that light is bright, useful, beneficial and necessary; kind of like the white people in this book. Also, it is said that "if its Optic White its right". when i think of the term optic i automatically think of glasses and sight so if you want to break it all down, cant you say that: White it right, light is the truth, whites are the right race and not only right but the honest race and they are more important then the blacks because really light can never be dark. In order for it to be dark itd have to be shut off completely, which basically means its eliminated from the area. And speaking of getting rid of something completely, isnt that what the doctors were trying to do in the hospital scene... ?
2/5/2013 10:40:02 am
Trying to do to the invisible man***
2/5/2013 04:57:37 am
A symbol that really intrigues me is the road that is described in the beginning of chapter two; Invisible, referring to the road as "forbidden", details its path. He begins with its path through the college grounds as it passes the girls' dorms and the hall with "its windows warmly aglow." In this context the road is welcoming because it passes through a familiar and friendly domain. Invisible proceeds to describe the road as it passes between the “small white Home Economics practice cottage” and the “paralleling…black powerhouse with its engines droning earth-shaking rhythms…windows red from the glow of the furnace”; both the cottage, described as “small and white”, and the “black powerhouse” are symbols in themselves. The “Home Economics practice cottage” represents the submissiveness of the African American people, the very thing that Invisible’s grandfather warned against with his last words; this cottage is where the skills of home management are learned and perfected, exactly the skills needed to take care of a white family. The “black powerhouse” and its “earth-shaking rhythms” symbolizes the rage and discontented side of African Americans, the discontent resulting from the poor treatment they endure, as opposed to the yielding side formed in the cottage. And the main symbol, the road, lies in between these two conflicting buildings, a conflict similar to what Invisible’s grandfather spoke about. Further on the road, as a bridge, crosses a “dry riverbed,” unkempt and unwelcoming; the bridge is described as existing for love affairs but never hosting one. With these descriptions the road acquires an atmosphere of neglect; the riverbed is neglected because it is not taken care of. It remains “tangled with brush and clinging vines” and devoid of any water, a sign of life and productivity. The bridge can never serve its purpose because it is ignored completely. Next the road continues past elegant southern homes, as evidenced by the detail “verandas half-a-city-block long”; these homes are most likely the plantations of old, the same buildings whose grounds the slaves labored upon. Finally, with a “sudden forking” the road leads to an area “barren of buildings, birds or grass,” leading to an insane asylum. The “sudden forking”—jarring and abrupt—paves the way to a wasteland without any sign of life or productivity. There is a desolate and dreary atmosphere raised by the fact that there is no grass or birds—no life—and no buildings save for the lonely insane asylum. Ultimately, the road symbolizes a downfall, a decay. It is a descent into madness and possibly Invisible’s fate. It begins at the college; education is the key to success in society and the driving force behind the progress of African Americans. It passes between the cottage and powerhouse, two prominent aspects of the African American struggle. It passes over the unused and forgotten riverbed and bridge; the potential of African Americans awakened by their recent enlightenment at the college is disregarded because of who they are. It passes the buildings with the half-a-city-block long verandas, the staple of the southern slave plantation, the grandeur of whites that blacks are forced to accept while they remain low. And finally, it reaches a dead end with the insane asylum, a descent into madness.
2/5/2013 04:58:25 am
It's so long :O sorry :P
Ali Reda Jeafar
2/5/2013 07:50:15 am
Ralph Emerson in Invisible Man, touches on a great many themes and ideas which can be reflected into society, both back during the Harlem Renaissance and in today's society. One theme in particular, is the theme most prevalent in the book and discussions: blindness. When one is blind, that indicates that they are unable to see with their eyes. Now this can be taken both literally and figuratively. Now the figurtive meaning is the one that is more prevalent in the novel and an example of such can be the very fact that the narrator is completly blind to his own invisibility. Now with that in mind, does that make the narrator truly blind or just so naive that he is unable to "see" the truth about his own situation?
2/5/2013 10:22:37 am
Ellison's depiction of the Liberty Paint Factory challenges some of our most cherished symbols of freedom, illustrating, once again, that the reality of black Americans in the United States is quite different from that of white Americans. this leads us to the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, which welcomes immigrants to America, promising freedom, equality, and justice. But arriving from Harlem, the narrator is met NOT by the Statue of Liberty, but by a paint factory with a similar name that manufactures optic white paint, thus turning America's metaphorical melting pot into a paint bucket. In like manner, Ellison turns the American bald eagle into the screaming eagle that serves as the logo for the paint factory with its white-is-right philosophy. one particular scene that is pertinent for the symbolism of the white paint is when I.M realizes that there is a "gray twinge" that is mixed together that makes the "Purest white" paint, however when he points this out to Mr.Kimbro, he is chastised for asking a question and furthermore Mr,Kimbro doesn't detect the black/gray coloring needed to make the paint. This scenes and the white paint signifies/symbolize America's refusal to accept the diversity of its citizens and its attempt to whitewash or cover up the issue of racism.
2/5/2013 11:42:55 am
In Ralph Waldo Ellison’s Invisible Man, the idea of visibility and the authority controlling such visibility is characterized in the symbolism of peoples’ namelessness. Throughout the novel the narrator strives to better himself; be it through education or physical work, he has but one goal: to prove. To prove society that he is worthy, that he is capable, that he is intelligent, that he is not like the Black man and therefore ultimately, not invisible. We are first introduced to the concept of visibility when Invizzy is at the Battle royal and, upon request, is told to perform his speech. At first, the White affluent men are noisy and inattentive, as if the narrator does not exist—nevertheless, when Invizzy ‘accidently’ mentions social equality, the ballroom suddenly quiets and everyone is looking at him, he is no longer invisible. In addition to the Battle Royal, the founder of the college which Invizzy attends is kept nameless—we are only shown peoples’ praise of him, as if that is enough. And it is—for the narrator, that is. His main priority is to become a Black man with that stature, to be loved and revered by both White and Black alike is his ultimate goal. However, we are shown the reality to which he is blind to when he visits Golden Day and, most importantly, the vet. The vet firsts seems to be completely sane; he does not say anything out of the ordinary but reflects on his life. All the men at Golden Day had at one point been lawyers, doctors, etc. And despite it all, they fell. They reached for the same dream Invizzy dreams of—of power and prestige—and ended up how they were always meant to end up: invisible. Their quest for visibility was futile, foreshadowing Invizzy’s fate. The parallelism between the vet and Invizzy is indisputable, as the reader is able to make certain connections: Ellison’s lack of names for both characters, their hunger for recognition, their “insanity” in believing the White man is not helping but hurting the Black community(although Invizzy might be rejecting the notion as of now), and their subsequent fall from that sought-after status (it’s going to happen!). In all, Invizzy’s life can go on to mimic either one of the nameless characters’ fates: the founder or the vet.
2/5/2013 01:02:04 pm
The idea that the nation at the time of this book was filled with oppurtunity and freedom serves as irony for the reality of the way things were. A symbol most significant in my opinion is the Liberty Paints plant, as it symbolizes white supremacy finding its way to exist without putting it out there for people to claim as racist. What I mean by this is that although the company attempts to portray "freedom"-- hence its literal name "Liberty Paints"-- what the invisible man has experienced is far from a lifestyle of liberty and freedom. Having to fight to get where he is and for his wants, the invisible man is constantly struggling to identify himself as well as be himself around others without seeing that in reality, he is the one who is blind. Thinking that by playing along with those who put him down, and faking his beliefs and hiding his thoughts, he thinks he is winning when that is the exact opposite. The invisible man has a sense of identity, and I can feel that he knows at times what he should be doing and saying, but instead he does what others want him to do. (Battle Royal for example) Point is, by working in this factory it is quite ironic to see the invisible man dropping ten drops of dead black paint into white paint and seeing it disappear. The invisble man believes that although he is black, his ideology is that his precense is needed in this society. He is right, but the thing is that in order for those few educated black men to survive and blend with society, their assimilation into white mentality is necessary. Hence, when the black drops disappear, they still exist but are now a representation of white supremacy. Going back to the paint, without those black dots, the famous "optic white" wouldn't exist. It's secret lies with the few black drops that are used but nobosy knows this outside the factory. This symbol of the factory exemplifies the need for the black population into the creation of what America is today, but it is never said or credited to the black people that there existed is necessary. Their work, labor, and effort is the foundation of what this nation came to be. Also, for those individuals who believe they can stand out without being oppressed by the whites, the factory takes pride in being able to cover up any tint or stain that may exist. This is basically saying that white supremacy will exist no matter what it encounters because it is simply superior.
2/5/2013 01:44:24 pm
Rather than analyzing a character, I felt that the Golden Day bores a strong significance. Throughout the novel we can see the racism that continues to take place between the blacks and whites, where the blacks are submissive to the white man's orders except at the Golden Day.
2/5/2013 01:45:37 pm
Wow, it took me so long to get to my point :/
3/18/2013 01:49:57 pm
3/18/2013 01:59:06 pm
Death, you forgot the carriage. -_-
3/18/2013 05:03:08 pm
What carriage? I travel alone. All I need is my Scythe and Robe. Shout out to Ms.Youssef! Let's see if you remember who used this name before! ;)
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