Monday, July 20, 2009

Summary of the Second Session, Post-Session #2 Assignments, Pre-Session #3 Assignments

1. A Summary of the Second Session
For today's session I decided to jump right into the task of figuring out how every chapter and every aspect of every chapter contributes to Invisible Man as a bildungsroman, a novel of identity formation. I thought it was most important to figure out what the novel as a whole suggests about identity and how the smaller pieces -- the plot (or logic of sequential events), the scenes (a scene consists of one time and place), the characters (even the less overtly significant ones), the symbolic objects, the repeated images and other motifs, etc. -- contribute to what the books as a whole suggests about identity.

So we worked our way through chapter 14 meticulously (the re-birth and Mary Rambo section, the Yam episode and eviction, the meeting with Brother Jack and introduction to the Brotherhood, The Chthonian, Emma, etc.) then (mindful of time) jumped to some important characters (Brother Hambro, Brother Tarp, Tod Clifton, the Rich woman, Rinehart, Sybil, and Ras) and scenes (Clifton's show in the park, Clifton's funeral, the protagonist's decision to undermine the Brotherhood, the riot, the choice to go underground). We gave special attention to the relationship between identity formation and objects (the "feed me" bank, the Tarp's shackles, the briefcase, etc.) food, sexuality, speech-making, subordinating one's identity to larger causes (whether the race or the Brotherhood), shifting identity (Rinehart) versus singular identity, action versus contemplation, etc.. I also gave you some information about Marxism and Communism to make a bit more sense of the Brotherhood. Then in the last half hour we developed a question to answer with an essay. Does that cover it? Did I leave anything out?

2. Post-Session #2 Work
Here's the question you developed:

Use your "personal key" (the events, objects, motifs you have tracked through the novel) to illustrate the purpose of the novel as you understand it. (Instead of "purpose" you might deal with the "meaning and effect" of the novel as a whole.)

Write an essay (oh, five hundred to a thousand words or so) responding to the prompt. I'll be looking for an idea (not a single sentence) about the significance of the novel as a whole that boldly and insightfully encapsulates Ralph Ellison's exploration of the identity development of an African-American man in hostile environments. Then, I'll be looking for close, careful analysis of specific passages in the text that support and develop your bold, insightful central idea. Finally, I'll look for the final conclusions your careful analysis has driven you toward.

"A+/A" essays will thoroughly and convincingly develop a bold, insightful idea about the novel's apparent meaning and effect with commanding, precise, and well-chosen details from the novel. "A-/B" essays will develop a plausible response to the prompt with enough relevant supporting evidence to come across as reliable. "B-" essays will often develop a plausible but superficial response to the prompt with some errors and omissions in interpretation of details. "C/C-" essays will often include significant errors and omissions in the central idea and in the supporting details, though these essays will show an understanding of some aspects of the text. Essays with lower scores will not meet requirements or will show little to no understanding of the prompt and/or the text.

This is your first attempt at an AP essay. No worries. It's a low stakes endeavor. (It won't count as a test grade on its own but it will count toward your summer session grade, which will be the equivalent of a term one test grade.) Do your best but consider it a learning experience.

Post the essays in the comment box (break them into sections if necessary) by Monday, July 27 11:59. I look forward to reading what you have to say. (I have enjoyed our time together, especially your ideas and close readings of the text.)

3. Pre-Session #3 Work
Read Translations by Brian Friel and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket.
For Translations note passages (at least ten) that deal with the relationship between culture (especially language, learning, and history) and identity. For Waiting for Godot note passages (at least ten) that deal with the absurdity of existence. (Culture-and-identity, on the one hand, and the absurdity of existence, on the other hand, are important aspects of Invisible Man. With these plays we'll focus a bit more closely on these two themes. (If we had gotten to the Harlem riots we'd have talked a bit more about absurdity today.)

I look forward to talking with you about these plays on August 3.

33 comments:

nFrye said...

Mr. Cook/anyone who understands the prompt,
could you please explain the prompt? I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to be writing about. Are we writing about our experience with the book, like, what we got out of it, or is it about the kind of effect it had on the people and the times? Also, I'm not sure I understand the use of the word purpose in this situation. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

letsfollowthesun said...

Terri Moody

Growing up can be a confusing time for many young people. The main factor that contributes to this is young adults/teenagers are still trying to learn about themselves. As an individual matures they have to learn from the circumstances they encounter and the experiences of others. Outside influences, made by peers or adults, either contributes to their growth or detracts from it. Individuals look for a special trait in them to set them apart from other people. All this is what the narrator in Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison is experiencing. There is one extra dynamic thrown into the mix; he is black and it is the 1930’s in the United States of America. During this time racism still raged within the souls of most whites living in the south and some parts of the north. Slavery was still fresh in the minds of many black northerners and southerners. He had trouble relating to his black family and community and the social protocol was not one that encouraged blacks and whites to trust each other. He had no mentor. The narrator was trying to work out his identity amongst the different people in his life who had their unique expectations of him. Growing up, race was an obstacle that made it difficult for the narrator to develop as an individual with an identity that he called his own.
Family plays a crucial role in an individual forming their identity. The narrator’s family said that he reminded them of his grandfather. For this reason, the narrator identified with his grandfather. He tells the readers about his grandfather’s deathbed speech. The main idea of the speech was how one can make the system work for them. The grandfather said,
“Son, after I’m gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy’s country ever since I gave up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with you 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.”
The grandfather is talking about using the white man to get the things that he needs or wants by doing exactly what they say, and telling them what they want to hear. This idea follows the narrator for the rest of his life. He always finds himself remembering the words of his grandfather. Sometimes he acts on them and sometimes he does not; regardless, they are a part of who he is.

letsfollowthesun said...

In the south during the 1930’s, black people were still greatly mistreated even though slavery had been abolished. The narrator, and countless young black men, was abused for the sake of entertaining white men. The narrator participated in a “battle royal”, because he was promised that afterwards he could give a speech. (He, and the rest of the participants, got paid five dollars to fight.) The “battle royal” took place in a fancy hotel. The white men who watched the battle royal were the important people of the town: bankers, doctors teachers, ect. The blacks were made to wear blindfolds and fight each other in a boxing ring. After the caged fighting, the white men played a cruel trick on the fighters. They set out a carpet that would electrify anything that touched it. On the carpet they placed fake coins. The young men squirmed, grasping to get the money, even though they were getting shocked. During that scene the narrator said something to himself that was symbolic of slavery and the treatment of blacks. “It seemed a whole century would pass before I would role free, a century in which I was seared through the deepest levels of my body to the fearful breath within me and the breath seared and heated to the point of explosion.” It is common knowledge that it was close to one hundred years between the signing of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Abolishment of Slavery (1865). After these embarrassing events at the battle royal, the narrator was given his chance to give a speech to his abusers. The following part of his speech proves that race was a searing social issue for an adolescent with a developing identity.

letsfollowthesun said...

“ Social….”
“What they yelled?”
“Equality-”
The laughter hung smoke like in the sudden stillness. I opened my eyes, puzzled. Sounds of displeasure filled the room. The M.C. rushed forward. They shouted hostile phrases at me. But I did not understand.
“What sir?”
“What you just said!”
Social responsibility, sir”, I said

“You sure that about ‘equality’ was a mistake?”
“Oh yes sir”, I said. “I was swallowing blood.”
(Chapter 1, page 31, in the red and white covered edition.)
The narrator, bold yet naïve, could not withstand the social pressure of the white men challenging him. Racism limited the narrator’s ideas that he wanted to promote in is speech, forcing him to deny his forming identity.
The narrator got expelled from his college, essentially for showing a white trustee bad examples of the lifestyle of local blacks. Although the white trustee forgave the narrator for exposing him to the harsh reality of this black community, the principal was outraged and sent him away to Harlem, New York. He said he did this because it was an embarrassment to the race. It also shows that he had more power than the white trustee. The narrator was a pawn in the career of this black principal. This in itself shows that the narrator went through hardships because of the color of his skin and the color of other peoples skin.
The narrator’s experiences in the North are also full of incidents where race made it hard for a growing person. A significant example was when the narrator decided to go out for a little breakfast. Eating is one of the things that people, providing they can, do everyday. Eating is not something should cause anger, but food choices do influence the way people perceive us. One should not feel that they have to prove something about themselves by what they choose to eat, but the narrator felt this way at breakfast one day. The conversation he had with the waiter went like this,
“I’ve got something good for you,” he said placing a glass of water before me. “How about the special?
“What’s the special?”
Pork chops, grits, one egg, hot biscuits and coffee!”
He leaned over the counter with a look that seemed to say, there that ought to excite you boy…
I looked silently at the back of his head as he sliced an orange, thinking, I should order the special and get up and walk out. Who does he think he is?...
It was an act of discipline, a sign of the change that was coming over me…. I slapped the dime on the counter and left, annoyed that the dime did not ring as loud as a fifty-cent piece.”
The narrator was offended. He did not want to identify with the South. He was trying to set himself apart from his upbringing. Even though this might seem like a minor part of the book, it has great importance. When someone denies their heritage, something inside them is changing; something is lost. The man at the counter expected him to order a specific dish because he was a black southerner, but the narrator felt that he had to prove him wrong. At this point he did not want to be associated with his roots. He was battling internally with how he should define himself. He felt he was being judged by the food the waiter offered him.
There are many symbols in the book Invisible Man that represent racism being an issue for growing people. It is hard to develop into an adult who has strong values when you are in a hostile environment. The narrator, being black in the 1930’s, constantly had people, white and black, trying to influence him in the way they thought best. What they thought is best usually had their best interest in the forefront. The narrator needed to do what was best for himself regardless of his race in order to form his identity.

snaledwan said...

Ralph Ellison illustrates the black man’s constant identity development struggle throughout his novel The Invisible Man. The protagonist is invisible, not physically, but through the white societies’ eyes. The failure of others to see him, and his own naive nature make it hard for him to live in his surroundings. He constantly struggles to obey his commands, and by doing so he sets himself up for failure. He almost never learns to fight for himself, and is afraid of people like Bledsoe, who does so. Ellison uses different types of keys that expose the stories main idea: the black man’s struggle within society. These themes include violence, the narrators place among the people in his surroundings, and invisibility. All of these play a major roll in the protagonist’s struggle to find himself within his surroundings.
Violence, one of the protagonist’s constant urges, often sets him back from the goals he tries so desperately to achieve. In chapter one the narrator is “trembling with excitement” when he was allowed to pick up coins at the battle royal. As soon as someone insults him, he states that “a violent force tore through my body, shaking me like a wet rat, the rug was electrified.” He tried to brush it off to focus on what he wanted, but he could not let his anger go. The electricity remained with him. His rage does not stop there. In chapter nine the protagonist is sent to New York where he is to deliver letters from Dr. Bledsoe that are suppose to help him. When he arrives at Emerson’s, he is turned away once more, and learns that the letters have been setting him up for failure all along. The narrator is furious, and wants to kill Bledsoe. He was once again played by his superiors. Through out the whole book, he lets his anger get the best of him, and the majority of the time it makes it harder for him to reach whatever goal he may be trying to achieve. Not only does violence take its toll on the protagonist development, but one of his major inconveniences is his position in society.
Throughout the entire book, the narrator is put down, and set up for failure all by the people that work above him. In chapter two, he struggles desperately to follow the orders of Bledsoe, and Norton. Each his superior, and each with different motives. He does what he believes is the right thing, to follow the white mans orders, and by doing so he inevitably gets himself sent away to New York to fend for himself. When the narrator joins the brotherhood, he is told to bring light to his beliefs, to preach and make a difference. But the narrator finds that hard to do when he is constantly relaying the message of the brotherhood as a whole. He once again is a puppet with its strings being played. Ellison sets the protagonist as a weak character, set in a bad position to make his struggle to find himself even more challenging.
The most obvious and most important theme is invisibility. If the narrator can’t find himself, he will always be an invisible man. He is constantly struggling to find himself; to do what he believes is right but is always taken back by people not seeing him, witch can often make it hard for him to see himself.
Each of these themes, help mold the most important point of the book: identity development of an African-American man in hostile environments. The narrator struggles to find himself, and has a hard time doing so because of these major themes, violence, position, and invisibility are all things that the narrator must deal with in order to develop his identity, and truly break away from being an invisible man.

Megan Keegan said...

Megan Keegan

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison revolves around a central idea of invisibility. Living in a world where he feels invisible the protagonist learns where he stands in other’s eyes and through this, his identity is formed. Following the main character’s experiences throughout the novel, lead to understanding his role in the human race. Seeing many hostile environments and learning how to cope with whatever is thrown his way helps with his personal growth as a whole. His knowledge changes his perspective on situations and leads him to see who he is.
A main reason for confusion and conflict with the Invisible Man is that he trusts too much in people he looks up to. He is constantly living in their shadow and can’t figure out how to achieve the power they have earned. When the protagonist attends college he meets Bledsoe, the president of the college. Bledsoe is a man of influence and holds a powerful position in the community. At first the protagonist wants to be like him and have his kind of supremacy. As a contrast to the main character, Bledsoe holds power but is scared of becoming invisible. This is demonstrated when the protagonist makes a mistake that could endanger the name of his school. Instead of punishing him at the institute he expels him for fear that word would get about his mistake. He even goes so far as to tell the boy, “You’re nobody, son. You don’t exist-can’t you see that? The white folk tell everybody what to think-except men like me. I tell them; that’s my life, telling white folks how to think about the things I know about.” These worlds make it clear to the Invisible Man that Bledsoe doesn’t have respect for him and thinks of him as invisible. Disappointed but not completely destroyed the Invisible Man takes the experience and learns from it, furthering his character.
While on his way to New York to start over, the protagonist runs into a familiar face. The man tells him, “You’re hidden right out in the open-that is, you would be if you only realized it. They wouldn’t see you because they don’t expect you to know anything, since they believe they’ve taken care of that…” He is being warned about becoming invisible, but that if he remains hidden he won’t be bothered. By becoming out of sight, the protagonist is self-inflicting invisibility upon himself. The choice is a defining factor in his quest for an identity.

Megan Keegan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan Keegan said...

The protagonist is lead to a job working in a factory where he is involved in a life changing mishap. The mistake causes him to forget everything and he has to start all over. This incident serves as a figurative rebirth to the main character, he is forced to lead a new life and learn everything again. At the same time, he is given a fresh start and a new identity that he can form however he pleases. This new freedom leads him back into the real world where he feels yet again invisible until he is taken in by a woman, Mary. She cares for him through his second “adolescence” of sorts until he gets a job working for an organization called the Brotherhood. This organization is eager to spread their beliefs through speeches. They work at making predominant issues less concealed and try to spread the word about them. In a way, the Invisible Man is even more invisible now because he isn’t speaking about his own beliefs. He is forced to speak the Brotherhood’s ideas, not his own. He is just another Brother in their organization; he isn’t any different than anyone else.
The protagonist reaches a moment where he is anything but invisible when his speeches for the Brotherhood are very well received by the public and he becomes quite popular. In these moments however, he learns about the downfall of being overly noticeable. In one instance, magazine writers call and ask for interviews. Trying to be less in the spotlight he refuses the interviews, but articles are still written about him. Some of his Brother’s accuse him of trying to better himself, not the Brotherhood with the articles. “I charge this man with using the Brotherhood movement to advance his own selfish interests.” The Invisible Man is punished by having to move down in rank to a lower position in the Brotherhood.
Consumed by his new fear of being to popular, the protagonist decides to get a disguise to become invisible. His efforts work; people continuously mistake him for someone by the name of Rinehart. It’s ironic that after achieving the power and success that he always wanted, it’s not his desire to not be recognized by everyone. Eventually he gets to the point when he feels as though parts of his existence have been a lie and wants to escape it all. In his opinion, becoming invisible will solve his problems. Dealing with this struggle, he burns his briefcase. This briefcase housed all the important documents that formed his identity. This final instance of inner struggle was pivotal to his existence.
From the beginning of the novel until now, the protagonist’s identity changed several times due to experiences that he had to adjust to. The protagonist would rather be invisible then overly powerful. All the things that he saw and experienced lead him to living underground by himself. “And now I realized that I couldn’t return to Mary’s or any part of my old life. I could approach it only from the outside…So I would stay here until I was chased out…The end was in the beginning.” He finally saw clearly what his purpose in life was. Invisibility in the end determined the Invisible Man’s identity.

Andrew Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katina T said...

In my opinion, the whole purpose of Invisible Man was to depict the struggle of an African American man in the early 1900’s who is trying to discover who he is in the world. Ellison tries to get this point across to readers through several different motifs. The motif that best portrays the protagonist’s struggle is color. The author is constantly relating certain colors to important characters, objects or events.

Katina T said...

The most obvious colors that Ellison relates the protagonist’s struggle to are black and white. This symbolizes several racial tensions all through the novel. The Invisible Man doesn’t realize that he is often used as tool to his higher authorities. A case where the author uses the colors black and white to show this is when the protagonist gets a job at the Liberty Paint factory. His job was to stir the paint until it became the whitest shade possible. The catch is that the white paint could not be its whitest shade without adding a black substance in first. Once the black substance was added, it soon became invisible under the white paint. When the Invisible Man has to work with Brockway, he realizes who really does the key work at the paint factory when Brockway explains, “Naw, they just mixes in the color, make it look pretty. Right down here is where the real paint is made. Without what I do they couldn’t do nothing, they be making bricks without straw” (Pg.214). This event portrays the fact that the author is trying to say how the higher white power is using the lower black people of society to their advantage. Mr. Brockway proves this even further by saying, “Our white is so white you can paint a chunka coal and you’d have to crack it open with a sledge hammer to prove it wasn’t white clear through!” (Pg.217) The black substance that makes the paint the best shade of white eventually turns invisible, and so does the African Americans that are being used as tools.

Katina T said...

Power is significant to the protagonist’s ideas of a person’s identity. His ambitions to finding himself are often connected to his strive to “rise to the top”. The Invisible Man associates the colors black and brown to the concept of levels of authority through out the novel. For example, he refers to Bledsoe, the president of his college, as “our leader, and our magic, who kept the endowment high, the funds for scholarships plentiful and publicity moving through out the channels of the press. He was our coal-black daddy of whom we were afraid” (Pg.116). It’s as if the darker black a character is the more power one has. At the beginning of the novel, the Invisible Man looks at Bledsoe as a role model. He has both respect and fear for a man who holds more power then him. I think a big turning point in the main character finding his identity is when he loses all admiration for Bledsoe. Bledsoe is not the man the Invisible Man thought he was when he expels him and makes sure that the protagonist doesn’t get a job in the North. People with higher authority are betraying him repeatedly. Becoming sick of being let down by these higher authorities, he uses this anger to his own advantage and says, “By kicking me into the dark they’d made me see the possibility of achieving something greater and more important than I’d ever dreamed. Here was a way that didn’t lead through the back door, a way not limited by black and white, but a way which, if one lived long enough and worked hard enough, could lead to the highest possible rewards”(Pg. 354-355) I interpreted this as though Ellison was trying to warn the readers that the dark color represents the darker evil. In contrast, the author relates the color brown to characters with a lower status in society. The Invisible Man himself is described as a lighter shade of black. A member of the brotherhood even goes as far as saying, “But don’t you think he should be a little blacker” (Pg.303). The main character takes this offensively. I think he wants to prove that any man, despite how dark or light he is, can make a difference in society. The Invisible Man thought that his trek to success would lead to power. Ever character that he has seen that has great power has the self confidence that he wants to gain. By gaining this great power, he also hopes to gain this self assurance.

Katina T said...

The point that was supposed to be made from Invisible Man was how the protagonist struggled to find his identity. Color is a constant contributor to the theme of the Invisible Man developing his self as a person. But does he ever find his true self? He comes to realize that he is just a tool in the higher authority’s eyes and decides to “hibernate”. What if he didn’t decide to go into his hole? If he ended up becoming someone with great power, would he turn into the characters that he despised? We’re not quite sure who the protagonist is, but we are sure of what he isn’t. The Invisible Man isn’t someone like the power hungry Bledsoe, or the overbearing Brotherhood. I think the Invisible Man did find his true identity, but the author chose to keep this a secret for the reader’s own interpretation.

Katina T said...

(each of those are a paragraph because my tab button isn't working to indent it ahah)

Andrew Ryan said...

Andrew R.
AP English
Invisible Man Post-Session Work II

Invisible Man

In the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the motif of lightness/darkness helps develop the identity of an African American in harsh environments and gives a meaning to the novel as whole. In the novel the protagonist is struggling to be visible in the eyes of his environment. As much as the protagonist wants to be in the light his environment suppresses him and keeps him in the dark. In the novel, light is symbolized as truth, trust, clarity and also power. The protagonist’s environment is in the light meaning that it holds the power and knows the truth about life. The protagonist on the other hand holds no power and is naïve to his environment. He is very willing to trust people and believe what people say but he is not aware that people have been using him his whole life, including the people he trusts most like Dr. Bledsoe, Mr. Norton, and Brother Jack. The protagonist goes through most of the novel doing what he believes is right until he realizes that after doing everything right he still gets in trouble.
When the protagonist is told he has to give a speech at a boxing match in front of his community he believes and trusts that he will go out and give a great speech which only goes to show that he can only see five feet down the road. The protagonist is humiliated when he has to actually fight other black men in a boxing ring before giving a speech. When the protagonist is told that he will be getting money for fighting he dismisses the fact that he was made fun of and believes whole-heartedly that he will get money without falling into a trap. When the protagonist says “I lunged for a yellow coin lying on the blue design of the carpet, touching it and sending a surprised shriek to join those rising around me. I tried frantically to remove my hand but could not let go…the rug was electrified” he is in complete shock that he had been made a fool of again. He also goes on to notice that the gold coins “were brass pocket tokens…” After all the humiliation is over the protagonist is awarded a brief case which he is very proud of to get. He forgets the fact that he was publicly humiliated and leaves the arena believing that he is becoming someone important like the Founder. This scene goes to show, how manipulative he is in that he can be made a fool of time and time again and he still is trusting. This scene also shows the power that his community has over him and how it uses that power to keep him low. The protagonist leaves this scene just as naively as when he entered it.
The initial point when the protagonist is brought a little closer to the light is when he converses with Dr. Bledsoe. Prior to this conversation the protagonist looks up to Bledsoe and almost envies him that he could be so important especially as a black man. Dr. Bledsoe is enraged at the protagonist for taking Mr. Norton, a trustee to the college, on such a hazardous trip leaving Mr. Norton in the hospital. Dr. Bledsoe yells at the protagonist for not taking charge of the trip and forcing Mr. Norton to go on a safe trip. When the protagonist says that he only took Mr. Norton to the slave-quarter sections because that’s what Mr. Norton asked to do, Bledsoe replies by saying “Damn what he wants… we show them what we want them to see.” This scene shows that the protagonist has been kept in the dark so long that when he is given a chance to go in the light he falls back into the dark. The protagonist is brought into the light when he’s on the trip with Mr. Norton since he’s in a position of power but he’s too blind to see it. During this scene the protagonist has a loss of innocence but also is able to see things with a little more

Andrew Ryan said...

clarity when he says “Nigger, this isn’t the time to lie. I’m no white man. Tell me the truth.” The protagonist is in disbelief that a man he had looked up to could say that to him. The meaning of this scene is to hit the protagonist in the face with the truth about Bledsoe. He learns that he doesn’t want to be like Bledsoe anymore after Bledsoe tells him “…I’ve made my place in it and I’ll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am.” Bledsoe then gets the protagonist’s hopes up by saying that the protagonist is “a nervy little fighter” and how the “race needs good, smart, disillusioned fighters” until he decides to expel him anyway from the school. This scene helped mold the protagonist’s identity into seeing the true sinfulness in a person and the untrustworthiness of a person’s being.
When the protagonist wakes up in the hospital after an explosion knocks him out, he is “reborn” again. When he is asked common knowledge questions like “What is your mother’s name?” and “What is your name?” by the doctors, the protagonist has no answer. This shows that even under the hospitals bright lights, he is still in the darkness since he doesn’t know the truth of his own identity. The protagonist learns that people are not all that bad once he meets Mary who takes him in and acts as a mother figure to him. Mary allows the protagonist to see the light in people and not just the dark. After allowing him to stay in her house, Mary shows him that people can be kind and trustworthy like she is. When the protagonist meets Mary she says “That’s what’s wrong with the world today, don’t nobody trust nobody” after the protagonist acts on edge around her.
The protagonist’s relationship with Brother Jack ends similarly to how his relationship with Dr. Bledsoe ended. Brother Jack like Dr. Bledsoe gave him a chance to see the light, but the truth of the matter was that it was a dim light because the light that Brother Jack and Dr. Bledsoe had shown him was still under their control not the protagonist’s. Unfortunately, it took a long time before the protagonist realized that his reality was being controlled by Brother Jack. Brother Jack like Dr. Bledsoe builds the protagonist up by saying “the new Washington shall work for the poor”, and that this new Booker T. Washington could be him. Brother Jack gets livid with the protagonist when the protagonist starts taking matters into his own hands. Brother Jack is lashing out at the protagonist because he is losing his control over the protagonist. Brother Jack tells the protagonist right out that he is only a tool in the Brotherhood organization when he says “For all of us, the committee does the thinking. For all of us. And you were hired to talk.” This encounter with Brother Jack teaches the protagonist that even though he thought he had the freedom finally to speak his mind, he was still under the Brotherhoods’ rule. Also in his encounter with Brother Jack when Jack loses his eye in front of him he realizes that it is Jack that is blind to the community and not him. The protagonist realizes that he is the only person that is not blind to the community because he is the only one who is in the community first hand. After this scene he comes to the conclusion that he knows the truth better than anyone else. At this point the protagonist knows he’s in the light because from this point on he stops listening to everyone else’s opinion but his own; for this first time he starts making decisions based on his opinions. After he starts seeing things more clearly he becomes fearless and confident in his decisions. When he runs into Ras the Destroyer during the riot in Harlem, the protagonist stands his ground even when Ras is threatening to kill him. The protagonist then goes on to kill Ras with Ras’s own spear, which shows that the protagonist is in control of himself.

Andrew Ryan said...

The protagonist decides to live the rest of his life in the darkness of a hole because he has realized that no one in his life has ever seen the true him, everyone he has met has only seen his exterior and nothing else. It has been everyone that has been in the dark, not seeing the truth that lies in people. The Brotherhood has also been in the dark because the Brotherhood was not able to trust the protagonist on his decisions. The Brotherhood was also in the dark when the protagonist worked for them because the Brotherhood never had power over the protagonist; the protagonist was able to organize a gathering like he did at Clifton’s funeral all by himself. The protagonist had the power the whole time he just never knew it or saw it. Since the protagonist knows now that he has been used his whole life he has realized that he is completely in the light, but as a result he has decided to stay in the darkness, away from his old life because as he says “Here, at least, I could try to think things out in peace, or, if not in peace, in quiet.”

Molly A said...

Molly A

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man portrays one man’s journey to achieve complete identity and a personal level of success, as an African-American, by working from one specific goal to the next. During the novel, the protagonist is faced with continuing setbacks that change his perspective on life, his communication with acquaintances, and how he interacts in his constantly-changing surroundings. These setbacks most adequately highlight the main purpose because they are the events and objects that guide him to make many essential choices and provide him with a road to the next phase of his life. Through his choices, he travels on a winding road of life experiences that, ultimately, lead him to his final destination. Often, through the misguidance of others, the protagonist finds himself in bad situations where he is; treated like a dog in a battle royal, distributing letters that are shattering his future, in an explosion that makes him forget his identity, and witnessing the public murder of one of his dearest friends. Events such as these share much in common, including both elements of manipulation and irony, two significant and reoccurring parts of his life.

Molly A said...

In the eyes of the protagonist, the offer to join the most prestigious men in town for a fancy get-together, where he would deliver his speech, was a rewarding and respectful acknowledgment of his success; a respect that he felt was well deserved. Upon arrival he came to realize that, adversely, it was to humiliate, demoralize, and shame him. “And besides, I suspected that fighting a battle royal might detract from the dignity of my speech. In those pre-invisible days I visualized myself as a potential Booker T. Washington.” This quote (page 18), displays his pride and dream to use his race for his own beneficial success. He says “pre-invisible” to emphasize that it was a dream that was possible only before he realized who judged visibility and invisibility. The men that he respected felt animosity towards his race, so the protagonist was forced to participate in the fight, designated for their mere entertainment and his humiliation. In return, they allowed him to present his speech, which was originally the only known reason for his invite. Aside from the embarrassment, the whole incident lead him to expect degradation in any sort of future praising. Ironically enough, it did advance him to a newer and brighter chapter of his life, where he was able to receive an education.

Molly A said...

After an important mishap with Mr. Norton and Dr. Bledsoe, the protagonist finds himself in New York City, distributing a bundle of letters that he thinks are aiding his job hunt and re-acceptance into the college. He feels grateful for Dr. Bledsoe’s generosity, and the opportunity to meet with such important people, until he stumbles across a man who reveals the true contents of each letter. “The bearer of this letter is a former student of ours (I say former because he shall never, under any circumstances, be enrolled as a student here again) who has been expelled...” It is, yet again, wrongfully being convinced that he has a chance, when in reality he is being made a fool. Directly after reading the letter (on page 191), he says “I could not believe it, tried to read it again. I could not believe it, yet I had the feeling it had all happened before.” Could the feeling of déjà vu be from what he felt at the battle royal, a similar time where what he expected was the polar opposite of reality? In these instances, he receives a rude awakening, becoming aware of the harsh realities in his life. Each one, however, has their own unique way of leading him to a new place in life.

Molly A said...

Mr. Emerson, who showed the protagonist the letter, also mentioned a paint factory where he could get work. After spending only hours in the paint factory, his lack of attention causes an explosion that leaves him in a factory hospital. Here, aside from being invisible, he is left feeling nonexistent, without any knowledge of who he is. It leaves him without a job, without much of a home, and unaware of what to do next. While wandering aimlessly through the streets of Harlem, he makes a speech, which grabs the attention of a Brotherhood representative, Jack. Jack offers the protagonist a spot in the Brotherhood, telling him that he is exactly what they need. The Brotherhood takes him in, provide him with all that he had lost, and go far beyond that. After much time with them, he has made many friends, but begins to see some downsides of the Brotherhood. When his Brotherhood friend, Clifton, drops out, the protagonist finds him on a street, selling puppets on a string that seem to move on their own. The puppets are a representation of what the two have become; figurines for the use of someone else who controls them, until they are disposed because they are no longer of use. In the same street, Clifton is shot to death by a police officer, right in front of the protagonist. Seeking support from the Brotherhood, he finds that they don’t care. He then proceeds to “YES” the Brotherhood down, which leads to the Harlem riot, and his final destination: the manhole.

Molly A said...

The setbacks that take place in the protagonist’s life are what advance him and hold him back at the same time. With each major high point, comes a low point; with each major low point, comes a road to the next high point. It is through these events that he either succeeds or fails in completing his goals. However, also through these events, the protagonist seeks an identity. At some points it is found in a public speaker in Harlem, while at others it is lost among many faces of New York. Either way, setbacks paved the road until the very end; when he is invisible, underground in Harlem.

Nick B said...

The bildungsroman theme of the novel, though constantly reinforced with scores of side plots and hidden meanings, is anchored down by several key events. What first sets the protagonist on his way towards self discovery is the eye-opening experience at the town get-together right after he graduates high school. The next serious jolt to his identity formation is when he reads the letters from Dr. Bledsoe and learns of the grievous deception. His last real chance at the productive life he has always dreamt of comes in the form of Brother Jack and his invitation to the Brotherhood. The smashing of this last, and strongest, belief in the goodness of man is what finally pushes him over the brink and into invisibility. These experiences mold him into the disillusioned, cynical, detached, contemplative, invisible man whom we meet in the prologue.
The unexpected events centering on the battle royal bring the protagonist his first taste of the real world. His entire life he has done everything he’s told he should do, gone above and beyond in academics as well as in the community. He believes that all the hard work has been leading to a final triumph that will jumpstart his entry into the next stage of his textbook life. This triumph is the opportunity to give his powerful, yet fake, speech to an audience of all the prominent white men in his town. After being forced to take part in an embarrassing battle royal, and subsequent humiliations, in front of the drunken and foolish pigs that he had aspired to please, he realizes how falsely idealistic his childhood had been. This realization urges him to completely overhaul his beliefs and start anew with his updated knowledge of how the world works. Before he can make this growth however, it is forestalled by the chance to finally give his speech, and the following awarding of his scholarship. Despite the brutality of his first eye-opening experience, he manages to delay coming to terms with the truth, and continues living his innocent and naïve life.

Nick B said...

Oops, sorry, that doesn't keep tabs to show where paragraphs start and end, ignore that please and I'll post them one paragraph at a time.

Nick B said...

The bildungsroman theme of the novel, though constantly reinforced with scores of side plots and hidden meanings, is anchored down by several key events. What first sets the protagonist on his way towards self discovery is the eye-opening experience at the town get-together right after he graduates high school. The next serious jolt to his identity formation is when he reads the letters from Dr. Bledsoe and learns of the grievous deception. His last real chance at the productive life he has always dreamt of comes in the form of Brother Jack and his invitation to the Brotherhood. The smashing of this last, and strongest, belief in the goodness of man is what finally pushes him over the brink and into invisibility. These experiences mold him into the disillusioned, cynical, detached, contemplative, invisible man whom we meet in the prologue.

Nick B said...

The unexpected events centering on the battle royal bring the protagonist his first taste of the real world. His entire life he has done everything he’s told he should do, gone above and beyond in academics as well as in the community. He believes that all the hard work has been leading to a final triumph that will jumpstart his entry into the next stage of his textbook life. This triumph is the opportunity to give his powerful, yet fake, speech to an audience of all the prominent white men in his town. After being forced to take part in an embarrassing battle royal, and subsequent humiliations, in front of the drunken and foolish pigs that he had aspired to please, he realizes how falsely idealistic his childhood had been. This realization urges him to completely overhaul his beliefs and start anew with his updated knowledge of how the world works. Before he can make this growth however, it is forestalled by the chance to finally give his speech, and the following awarding of his scholarship. Despite the brutality of his first eye-opening experience, he manages to delay coming to terms with the truth, and continues living his innocent and naïve life.

Nick B said...

This last attempt to hold onto his childhood innocence is foiled when he reads the letters from Bledsoe to his “prospective” employers. After the battle royal, despite many minor assailments to his innocence (Trueblood’s story, the vet’s ravings, Barbee’s sermon, Bledsoe’s rant, getting expelled) the protagonist manages to still grasp the blindfold covering his eyes. He convinces himself that Bledsoe is really a decent man for giving him another chance, concedes the point to Bledsoe and admits he was wrong, and sets out fresh and hopeful for New York. This forced gaiety slowly dwindles down to doubt and mistrust after several weeks with no response from any of the letter recipients. The stage is now set for his collapse, which nevertheless comes with surprise, when he reads the actual letter. The confirmation of all his fears and doubts, as well as his preliminary look at the true people behind his idols, causes him to crash, and eventually explode, literally, in the factory. Now every last shred of childhood innocence has been stripped from him, and what’s left is just a newborn baby in a man’s body, ready to be molded and raised again.

Nick B said...

In the second half of the book (post factory explosion) the protagonist follows a path of identity formation parallel to that of the first part of the book. After being cultured back to health by Mary Rambo in a very safe, sheltered environment, the protagonist begins his journey towards self-discovery anew, though this time he goes with a touch of caution, and, proportionally, higher stakes. His newfound power of speech, which is cultured and refined by the Brotherhood, gives him a sense of power and purpose the likes of which he has never experienced, even when fully immersed in his childhood quest for success. This higher high just makes the inevitable fall that much further. Though that fall comes slowly, unlike his previous realizations, it brings him down to an all-time low – invisibility.

Nick B said...

The protagonist leads a rollercoaster of a life for the several key years of his development, after high school until before invisibility. The highs get higher and the lows get lower until, eventually, he can’t get back up from the low. In physical terms this is when he falls into the manhole and gets locked underground. Symbolically it’s when he realizes his true invisibility and gives up on his quest to lead a “normal” life. Ralph Ellison’s purpose in writing Invisible Man was to convey the difficulties of anyone in a bildungsroman, and especially someone who was African-American. He used constant symbolism and recurring motifs to drive the point home, but the framework on which to build was lain by those several events. Invisible Man is a bildungsroman, not plain and simple, but at the core that’s what it is, and those events most vividly and blatantly convey that meaning.

Francesco P said...

Many of us live a disillusioned life, with a thin veil covering our eyes, altering our perception of the reality of our world. As the protagonist came to realize, your identity is intertwined with this warped perception of reality, and only with the clarity of the truth of it do you finally realize your existence. It’s not so much the acknowledgment of his invisibility that freed the protagonist of his misconceptions, but rather the acceptance of his past, the recognition of the present, and the possibility of the future. The novel’s purpose in this respect is yes the formation of your identity, as it is so thickly represented, but also the enlightening outlook of what reality truly is, behind all the prospects of your ideals that you project onto it.
The Vet outlines the issue dealing with the protagonist’s invisibility initially from the very beginning. “He’ll do your bidding, and for that his blindness is his chief asset.” When presented to us, it’s evident that the protagonist is in fact blind to the intentions of his superiors and in that way is taken advantage of quite effortlessly. Ironically enough, when the protagonist realizes this transient fatal flaw of his, he decides to subvert the brotherhood by discreetly affirming their motives and beliefs. He believes that by deceiving the brotherhood into believing he is actually acting on behalf of their motives that he is inversely benefiting himself by this deception. As his grandfather claimed early on to “undermine them with yeses.” It’s not till the end of the novel that he realizes the motives of the brotherhood were still indiscernible behind his veil, and in fact is complacent action only fulfilled their motives.

Francesco P said...

The moment that the protagonist chooses to follow his genuine intuition on Clifton’s death is where his disillusionment rapidly begins to dissolve. He didn’t realize that by being hired to speak as the figurehead of the brotherhood, he was relinquishing his own opinions and thoughts to those of the meticulously fabricated of the collective brotherhood. “We furnish all ideas. We have some acute ones. Ideas are part of our apparatus. Only the correct ideas for the correct occasion.” Unfortunately, Brother Jack is far too unconscious of humanity and reality, particularly of Harlem, to realize the contradiction of this statement, yet the protagonist sees through its inconsistency. How are ideas to be considered palpable and authentic, if they are manufactured by a group of men, who separate themselves from the very society, which they attempt to deliberately sway to action? Another frightening confirmation of Brother Jack’s ignorance is delineated when he says, “Our job is not to ask them what they think but to tell them!” How is one to develop an identity based on what others impose on their thoughts? It is this indirect passage that enlightens the protagonist to his true identity, one, which cannot be altered or claimed by, any individual or ideal, but is rather the accumulations of your experiences, thoughts and memories. Your embarrassments, and fears, rages, sorrows, and elations all brilliantly intertwined to uniquely create an ever-changing being who can be identified only by you. Your name and appearance, as he came to realize, gives no meaning or insight to your identity. As in when people mistakes him for Rinehart, “If dark glasses and a white hat could blot out my identity so quickly, who was actually who?” It’s clear that identity is the introspective nature of your existence, and can only truly be defined by yourself.
The protagonists eventual mindset is one much more seemingly morose and complacent, yet is alive with the authenticity of true reality and opportunity. To some it may seem as though you’re renouncing your life to a sort of purposeless void, but another perspective exists. Through the acceptance of what reality is, one is left with the boundless insight of the possibility of life. The mere fact you exist gives you the opportunity and the freedom to follow your life’s ultimate desires. It’s this recognition of possibility, which the protagonist realizes by the conclusion of the novel that lures him out of his hibernating hole and back into reality. The invisibility that he so scrupulously acknowledges now is obviously not of a physical nature, but rather his identity. In this aspect, we are all invisible, our identities intricately and complexly our own, invisible to some extent to all who look unless we choose to give them the direct sincere insight of who we are.

Meredith S said...

Meredith Salo
The experiences of the protagonist in Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man leads him closer to developing his own identity. He is thrown into a new life in New York City, which eventually causes him to question his previous beliefs and aspirations. His new environment often works against him and further adds to his struggle for self-identification. The narrator experiences formation of his identity on two different levels. The first is his personal struggle to find where he fits in his environment. This involves his own internal sorting of beliefs and the justification of his actions in accordance to these beliefs. The other is his desire and ability to express himself effectively to his environment. These two aspects of his identity formation collaborate and eventually lead to him taking on a state of invisibility.
Specific images present throughout the novel demonstrate the formation of the narrator’s identity over time. The motif of public speaking is one such image which can be used to track the changes in his identity. The first appearance of public speaking when the narrator presents a speech of his own in a humiliating and degrading situation. When this instance of his public speaking is compared to the speech he makes later at the site of the eviction of the elderly couple, it is evident that the new, very different environment he has been placed in has influenced him. His first speech is a many-times rehearsed piece that obeys the standards of society. He accidently uses the term, “social equality” in place of “social responsibility” at one point, which he is quick to correct and apologize for repeatedly. The speech he makes at the eviction is almost entirely opposite of his first speech. In this case, he jumps at the opportunity to speak publicly in complete spontaneity. He purposely tries to shake the accepted standards and rules that are set out in the society.

Meredith S said...

The second speech, unlike the first, is not rehearsed. However, in both instances, the narrator relies on other people’s ideas and principles to tell people what they want to hear. The speech he makes at the beginning of the novel does not convey any of his own original thoughts about education and responsibility, but rather what he has been directed towards thinking by people of higher power. His second speech is similar in this way because he uses phrases and sayings he has collected from other people to empower the crowd on the street. He consistently uses public speaking to convey the messages that people want to hear, rather than using his own words to state his position on the subject. This is part of his ongoing struggle to express his identity to his environment. The way in which he consistently thinks one thing and does or says another contributes to his eventual desire for isolation.
The narrator often day dreams of becoming the ideal advocate for any group he is a part of. When he is in New York and still has dreams of returning to college, he says, “I would be basically the same… yet so subtly changed as to intrigue those who had never been North … I had to be careful, though, not to speak too much like a northern Negro; they wouldn’t like that.” In this situation the group he belongs to is the college. The way he plans how he would act under certain circumstances shows that he is heavily dependent on other peoples’ opinions of him and he is desperate for acceptance. He reacts in a similar way when he joins the Brotherhood. He voluntary drops all of his previous aspirations to join the Brotherhood simply because it is a group that is willing to accept him. After betrayals by all of the groups he has been involved in, the narrator feels the need to be isolated and invisible. His identity develops to be more based around self-acceptance rather than acceptance by others.
The narrator of Invisible Man strives for self-identification throughout the novel. His search for his identity demonstrates the novel’s purpose to understand the connection between self-acceptance and acceptance by one’s environment. His identity develops in terms of how he thinks of himself and how he portrays himself outwardly to the people around him. He often has good intentions and ideas but is unable to express them, causing others to believe he is something other than what he is. He also tends to convince himself that he is something else in order to justify any destructive action he takes. The realization that he always acted against his true desires and intentions is what led him to become invisible, and at the same time become accepting of his own identity.