Invisible Man

Invisible Man

Invisible Man Literary Devices The Basics Title: Invisible Man Author: Ralph Ellison First published: 1952 Genre: bildungsroman, social commentary Important Literary Devices Used Setting Point-of-view/narration Characters/characterization Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone Allusions Symbols/motifs Imagery Flashback Foreshadowing Irony Epiphany

Epigraph You are saved, cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained; you are saved: what has cast such a shadow upon you? Herman Melville, Benito Cereno The shadow is cast by Babo, a black slave whom Benito, the main character in Benito Cereno, now sees as a viable threat to him; he can no longer underestimate blacks At the same time, even though Babo is a competent person, he is not socially free even though he may now be respected Harry: I tell you, it is not me you are looking at, Not he you are grinning at, not me your confidential looks Incriminate, but that other person, if person, You thought I was: let your necrophily Feed upon that carcase. T. S. Eliot, Family Reunion The person speaking is expressing frustration that other people do not see him as a human being, he compares their interactions with him with love of corpses Prologue Setting: Basement in NYC

Point of view/narration: Retrospective 1st person, IM (elder) is the narrator Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Diction is sophisticated yet crude, reflects IMs education and background Syntax mimics spoken language Overall tone: sardonic and somewhat insane Character introduced: IM Distinction between IM (character) and IM (narrator) Symbols/motifs: 1369 light bulbs Light & darkness The blues Being never quite on the beat Hallucinations

Story of black woman shows ambivalence of black-white relationships Foreshadowing: Several prominent characters later in life of IM (character) mentioned IM (narrator) himself shows what IM (character) will end up like Chapter 1: Battle Royal part 1 Setting: After high school graduation, ballroom of a hotel IM (character) becomes the main narrator His behavior around whites signifies his naivety IM (narrator) makes comments at beginning and end of chapter showing how much hes changed Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Major difference between the voices of IM (character) and IM (narrator): IM (character) merely states things, doesnt analyze or doubt them, IM (narrator) is more experienced and jaded, ironically humorous Allusions:

Booker T Washington, Atlanta Compromise Symbols/motifs: Black & white sexuality Electricity Whites causing conflict between blacks Briefcase To whom it may concern: keep this nigger-boy running Chapter 1: Battle Royal part 2 Imagery: The fighters are described like animals, sub-human Foreshadowing: The grandfathers last words IM (narrator) hinting that IM (character) doesnt understand his situation yet

Irony: Situational: whites trying to mold blacks into stereotypical promiscuous beasts yet trying to stop them from touching their women Dramatic: IM (character) doesnt realize hes being played by the whites Verbal: IM (narrator) knows what will happen later Chapters 2-3: Norton & the Golden Day part 1 Setting: The college, Truebloods shack, the Golden Day Characters introduced: Mr. Norton & Jim Trueblood Supercargo The veteran Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Words and structure mimic spoken language and reflect education level Obvious difference between Trueblood and Norton

IM (narrator) uses repetition of sentence structure when describing the college, shows nostalgia Allusions: Historical figures: Ralph Waldo Emerson, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Jefferson Bible Freudian psychology Chapters 2-3: Norton & the Golden Day part 2 Symbols/motifs: Whitewashed walls of the college White dividing line on the highway Birds Bird-soiled statue of the Founder Imagery : Description of the college is very idyllic Flashback:

Trueblood recalls impregnating his own daughter Foreshadowing: IM (narrator) describes the past using things that happen later in his life Irony : Situational: Truebloods situation and the reactions of blacks and white Chapters 4-6: Return & Exile from the College 1 Setting: The college church, Bledsoes office Characters introduced: Homer A. Barbee Dr. Bledsoe Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Barbees speech is very sophisticated, but flat: it doesnt really emotionally impact the reader

Bledsoes words are those of a white man, use of nigger IM (narrator) uses long, descriptive sentences when remembering details Allusions: Tuskegee Institute Puritans Homer Horatio Alger Jim Crow laws & segregation on buses Chapters 4-6: Return & Exile from the College 2 Symbols/motifs: Blindness Bledsoes shackle Cage (that Bledsoe makes with his fingers) Foreshadowing: IM (character) will continue to be used by whites and lose parts of himself until he is no longer blind

The vets words to IM (character) and Norton Irony : Situational: Bledsoe is not trying to help blacks, hes the one manipulating the whites Chapters 7-9: Trip & Arrival in NYC part 1 Setting: Bus, subway, North, NYC, Harlem, Mens House, Emersons office Characters introduced: Peter Wheatstraw & Emersons son Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Emersons son uses negative words to express discord with his father and suggestive words when talking to IM (character) Allusions: Pete Wheatstraw, the blues

Ralph Waldo Emerson Huckleberry Finn Jack the rabbit Chapters 7-9: Trip & Arrival in NYC part 2 Symbols/motifs: Journey north Red apple 7 Letters Birds & cages Stereotypical southern food Imagery: Rass first impression on IM (character) is very vivid, hes angry and passionate Foreshadowing: IM (character) dreams of his grandfather and feels like hes being deceived and used by someone like Bledsoe or Norton Emersons son says that no one has any identity Epiphany :

IM (character) realizes that Bledsoe had tricked him, becomes thoroughly disillusioned with the college Chapters 10-11: Liberty Paints part 1 Setting: Liberty Paints factory, factory hospital Characters introduced: Kimbro Lucius Brockway Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Capitalization in Brockways words expresses anger Doctors question IM (character) with capitalized signs, dehumanize him Allusions: Labor unions Electroshock therapy Brer Rabbit Symbols/motifs:

Liberty Paints factory 10 drops of black paint into white paint Black and white imagery Machinery/technology Electricity Castration & black and white sexuality Hallucinations Chapters 10-11: Liberty Paints part 2 Imagery : IM (character) goes through rebirth at the hospital, images of birthing mothers & becoming a new person Irony Situational: black paint is needed to make white paint whiter

Situational: after IM (character) adds the correct black paint to the white paint, he can still see the gray tinge even though Kimbro cant Situational: the one behind the success of the white paint is an uneducated, poorly paid old black man Epiphany: IM (character) is forced to acknowledge his past and heritage IM loses his job at Liberty Paints, thereby losing his last connection with the college, becomes a new person Chapters 12-13: Mary & the Eviction Setting: Mens House, Marys apartment, old couples apartment, caf Characters introduced: Mary Rambo Brother Jack Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone:

Starts with long, fragmented sentences, mirror his state of mind after therapy IM (narrator) uses a sarcastic & bitter tone when describing blacks who resemble IM (character) of the past Repetition of words related to hot & cold Repetition of law-abiding people in eviction speech Allusions: Everything the old couple had Historical heroes: Jefferson, Jackson, Pulaski, Garibaldi, Booker T. Washington, Sun Yat-sen, Danny OConnell, Lincoln Chapters 12-13: Mary & the Eviction Symbols/motifs: Sweet yams Food in general Black & white images Cheesecake and coffee Imagery: Old couples possessions show the story of blacks pre, during,

and post-Civil War Foreshadowing: The second yam was rotten, indicates that IM (character)s new philosophy will break IM (character) does not enjoy the cheesecake that Brother Jack forces on him Irony : Situational: eviction speech meant to calm the onlookers down, instead riled them up even more Epiphany : Eating the yam causes IM (character) to embrace the freedom in making his own choices for his own wants Chapters 14-15: The Brotherhood part 1 Setting: The Chthonian , Marys apartment, Brotherhood apartment Characters introduced:

Emma Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Characters are described by IM (narrator) in a mysterious and distrusting tone, foreshadowing how they later become IM (character)s enemies Allusions: Chthonian Symbols/motifs: Cabbage Sambo coin bank Cockroaches IM (character)s new name Chapters 14-15: The Brotherhood part 2 Imagery: IM (character) is like a specimen in a zoo The Brotherhood is very grand and worldly from IM (character)s pov

Foreshadowing: IM (character) is a humanist, disagrees with Brother Jack who is communist When at the Brotherhood party, IM (character) wonders if he is just a resource to be exploited IM (character) is not black enough IM (character) feels that theres something not quite right about Brother Jack IM (character) tries to rid himself of Sambo but is unsuccessful Mary and IM (character) kill the cockroaches once they were out in the open Irony: Dramatic & situational: IM (character) vowed to never be manipulated by whites again, but joins Brotherhood Chapters 16-17: First Brotherhood Speech & Ras 1 Setting: Arena where IM (character) gives the speech, Brotherhood apartment, 4 months pass, Harlem

Characters introduced: Brother Wrestrum Brother Hambro Brother Tarp Ras the Exhorter Brother Tod Clifton Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: IM (character)s speech had a passionate tone and was moving for the audience Repetition of brother to make the audience feel closer Allusions:

Hoovervilles John Brown The blind leading the blind Nijinski Frederick Douglass Chapters 16-17: First Brotherhood Speech & Ras 2 Symbols/motifs: White lines Blindness CHECKS CASHED HERE sign Imagery: Baseball imagery during speech Clifton is described as the ideal black man Foreshadowing: Clifton accidentally hurts a Brotherhood member during a fight Tod is death in German Irony:

Situational & dramatic: Ras wants black people to work together against the whites, hes actually being manipulated by whites too Chapters 18-19: Nameless Note & Woman Question Setting: The Brotherhoods office in Harlem, woman question conference, nameless womans apartment Characters introduced: Nameless woman Symbols/motifs: Anonymous note Leg chain Black & white sexuality Imagery: Suggestive imagery associated with the woman, emphasizing the social class difference

Flashback: Tarp recalling his story of freedom Foreshadowing: The anonymous note telling IM (character) not to go too fast or the Brotherhood will reject him Clifton has gone missing Irony : Situational: Wrestrum accuses IM (character) of using the Brotherhood to get famous, in reality its the other way around The woman who supposedly advocated womens rights was used to seduce IM (character) Epiphany: IM (character) realizes that the Brotherhood is racist in its own way Chapters 20-21: Cliftons Death and Funeral 1 Setting: Barrelhouses Jolly Dollar, 125th street, Mount Morris Park

Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Language used in Sambo scene is mocking of black slave culture, use of music/verse Repetition of his name was Clifton Repetition of comic-book Voice expresses bitterness and grudge; IM (character) really felt that Clifton was a friend, feels betrayed Allusions: Sambo Symbols/motifs: Paper Sambo dolls Cliftons death Imagery: The dolls appearance and motions are insulting and infuriating to IM (character), self-mocking image of Clifton Cliftons death is described with religious imagery Black nun in white & white nun in black Chapters 20-21: Cliftons Death and Funeral

2 Foreshadowing: The communitys hatred of the Brotherhood Tarp is gone as well Cliftons descent into invisibility/underground IM (character) feels the tension still present in Harlem Irony: Situational: Clifton left the Brotherhood after he became disillusioned; IM (character) used his death as a marketing scheme to redeem the Brotherhood in Harlem Dramatic: IM (character) still doesnt understand that the Brotherhood is only using him; hes actually trying to improve the Brotherhood Epiphany: IM (character) realizes that people like Clifton will be forgotten by history and he doesnt want that to happen Chapters 22-24: Return to Harlem &

Rinehart 1 Setting: Brotherhood committee room, bar Characters introduced: Brother Tobitt Rinehart Sybil Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Brother Jack uses a patronizing tone when talking to IM (character) When IM (character) and Brother Jack fundamentally disagree on how Cliftons situation should have been dealt with, Brother Jack becomes Jack, signifies the loss of trust & camaraderie Allusions: God Brutus Christmas night & Santa Claus Symbols/motifs:

Red Brother Jacks glass eye Rinehart disguise (esp. the dark green glasses) Chapters 22-24: Return to Harlem & Rinehart 2 Flashback: Dreams of the grandfather Foreshadowing: Rineharts personas are all stereotypical black roles Irony: Jack advises IM (character) to not lose his temper right after he yelled at IM (character) Hambro tells IM (character) that he needs to sacrifice Epiphany: IM (character) realizes that Jack has been half blind the entire time

IM (character) finally sees invisibility as a solution and escape Chapter 25: Riot part 1 Setting: Streets of Harlem Characters introduced: Dupre & Scofield Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Erratic syntax after IM (character) falls in manhole, mirrors state of mind Allusions: Harlem Riot of 1935 Uncle Toms Cabin Marcus Garvey Symbols/motifs: White mannequins Burning of the tenement

Manhole Briefcase & documents Fire Chapter 25: Riot part 2 Imagery: Differences in description of Ras from pov of IM (character) and other bystanders IM (character) falls into the manhole (darkness) Flashback: Riot reminds IM (character) of the Battle Royal: white men forcing black men to fight Irony: Situational: IM (character) finally followed grandfathers advice, backfired Epiphany: Revealed that Jack wrote the anonymous note IM (character) realizes that he was being played by the Brotherhood all along

By burning the documents, IM (narrator) cuts ties with his past once and for all, he is fully aware of the white mans manipulation Epilogue Setting IMs basement, subway Point-of-view/narration: Narration is firmly in the hands of IM (narrator) again Voice is more positive than in the prologue IM (narrator) is still in the process of defining himself and thinking about his future Characterization: IM (narrator) is much more optimistic than in the Prologue Indicates that telling his story is cleansing Dialogue & diction/syntax & tone: Juxtaposition of chaos & order, underground & within society, invisibility & contributing to humanity Tone is not as dark, more reflective and progressive

Symbols/motifs: IM (narrator) recalls many that appeared in the Prologue and within the story Epiphany: IM (narrator) rejects the messages of both his grandfather and the veteran IMs infinite possibilities are a hyperbole of the freedom of speech from the Prologue IM (narrator) realizes that invisibility like Rineharts is not desired, he needs to go back above ground and play an active role in society in order to become truly visible Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat (577). Major (defining) Themes The current state of being must be broken in order to create something new IMs past life in the south was destroyed, which allowed him to become part of the Brotherhood By pinning blacks to their perceived roles, whites can dehumanize them Visibility represents humanity; by not seeing him, society does not register IM as a human being

Ones own emotions and values are more important than any outsiders ideology IM rejects the Brotherhoods scientific methods to follow his own beliefs Other Themes One has to overcome illusion and deceit to see the truth IM discovers his invisibility and how to combat it after he realizes the truth of others manipulation Admiration causes ambition but is eventually quashed IM wanted to become like Bledsoe when he was still at the college, later he admires Brother Jack and Clifton and follows the same course of action Overall Voice Ellisons voice is often shared with the narrators thoughts, reflects their shared experiences The main voice is bitter and selfdepreciatingly humorous Becomes excited when IM stumbles upon

a new facet of his person In scenes where IM is reminiscing the far past (college) the voice is wistful Argument about Race Relations Ellison disagrees with Booker T. Washingtons philosophy of gaining social equality by obeying whites and trying to imitate their society Even in the north, the supposed free land, racism is still present There is no freedom from racism within the Communist Party because it promotes equality by suppressing all the individuals within it Ellison uses invisibility as a motif representing society trying to fit IM into stereotypical roles Rejects Rinehartism because that is accepting invisibility as a fact IMs last message to the reader suggests that Ellison has no solution to the race relations problem; the only thing IM can do is integrate with society and become visible

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