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The Journey of the Invisible Man

Mapping out the Journery of the Invisible Man from the book the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Kevin Guebert

on 28 February 2011

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Transcript of The Journey of the Invisible Man

The Journey Tuskegee University “…and I am standing there puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding.” (page 36)
The statue at Tuskegee University relates back to the Invisible Man’s grandfather’s last words. The Invisible Man was told by his grandfather to act on the outside like he went along with the whites but on the inside, rebel against them. The statue confuses the Invisible Man because he doesn’t understand whether the veil is being lifted or lowered. Being lowered shows that the black people are still being oppressed and relates to the symbole of being blind. Tuskegee
Ellison Written by Train Journey
“Come out of the fog, young man. And remember you don’t have to be a complete fool in order to succeed. Play the game, but don’t believe in it-that much you owe yourself. Even if it lands you in a strait jacket or padded cell. Play the game, but play it your own way-part of the time at least” (156).
The Invisible Man is conversing with the Vet from the Golden Day on the way to Washington D.C. Dr. Bledsoe has gotten the Vet transferred to D.C. because after the Mr. Norton incident, Bledsoe does not want to have the Vet around. The Vet’s advice that he gives to the Invisible Man relates back to primarily his grandfather’s last words but also to Dr. Bledsoe’s words. The grandfather, Dr. Bledsoe, and the Vet all talk about “playing the game” with the white people. The Vet tells the Invisible Man to “come out of the fog” and break the blindness that many black people have. The whites are still controlling and the blacks must find a way to fight back. Welcome Harlem and symbols Of the Invisible Man Battle Royal “When I got there I discovered that it was on the occasion of a smoker, and I was told that since I was to be there anyway I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmate as part of the entertainment. The battle royal came first.” (Page 17)
The scene of the black men fighting blindly against each other symbolizes the struggle that they still have against the white men. The white men are still controlling the blacks as they have them fight against the struggle. The Invisible Man becomes confused because he sees it as being detrimental because the blacks are fighting against each other when they should fighting
against the white men. Liberty Paints the brotherhood “Let’s follow a leader, let’s organize. Organize. We need someone like that wise leader, you read about him, down in Alabama. He was strong enough to choose to do the wise thing in spite of what he felt himself..." (276)
The speech given by the Invisible Man at the eviction of the older couple attracts the attention of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is all about science and organizing the people and that is what the Invisible Man is preaching to the crowd. “In my opinion the speech was wild, hysterical, politically irresponsible and dangerous,” he snapped. “And worse than that, it was incorrect!” (349) the brotherhood “A lot has occurred about which I wasn’t told; something that had not only stifled the members’ interest but which, according to the records, had sent them away in droves” (428).
Even though the Invisible Man is a part of the Brotherhood, he still does not know everything that goes on inside the society. After returning to Harlem, he feels like he has been kept out of some of the secrets of the Brotherhood. He believes, however, that without the Brotherhood, he would stay outside of history. Dr. Bledsoe:
Dr. Bledsoe is the man that the grandfather wants all black so to be. To the whites, Bledsoe seems to obey all the rules and does everything he wants them to. Behind their backs, however, Bledsoe is influencing them. Bledsoe states that “True they support it, but I control it” (142) saying that even though the whites think they are in charge, in actuality, Bledsoe acts like he submits to the whites, but in actuality, he controls the school. Mr. Norton:
The situation that the Invisible Man has with Mr. Norton turns out to ruin his college life at Tuskegee University. Mr. Norton, a wealthy, white trustee of the University, symbolizes the controlling power that the whites still have over the University and thus the black race. Mr. Norton’s orders are the ones that have caused the Invisible Man to get into trouble by taking Mr. Norton to see Trueblood and also to the Golden Day. As the Invisible Man walks up from the subway, there is a symbolic rebirth for him as he enters into a new environment and culture different from the South. To “Brother Tod Clifton
Our Hope Shot Down” (450)
Like with the Invisible Man’s first speech with the Brotherhood, there is another clash between emotions and the science behind the Brotherhood. The Invisible Man organizes a march/funeral based on emotions and leads them by their feelings. The Brotherhood, however, is radically against that and only wants to reach people through science and intelligence. Sight and Blindness:
“A glass eye. A buttermilk white eye distorted by the light rays. An eye staring fixedly at me as from the dark waters of a well” (474)
The symbol of the Seeing Eye is a reoccurring theme throughout the book. The Invisible Man thinks that Brother Jack cannot see him, figuratively, in what the Invisible Man thinks. But now, he knows that Brother Jack does not also see him physically and the Invisible Man really is invisible. The Invisible Man, like with Battle Royal, is confused about why someone of his own race would be fighting against him and not the whites. “’I’ll give you letters to some of the school’s friends to see that you get work,’ he said. ‘But this time, use your judgment, keep your eyes open, and get in the swing of things!” (145)
To the Invisible Man, Dr. Bledsoe seems to be genuinely interested in the Invisible Man’s life. In actuality though, Dr. Bledsoe is still “playing the game” with the Invisible Man. Dr. Bledsoe is only worrying about his reputation and the support he gets from the white trustees, and if one student does something wrong, like Mr. Norton’s car ride, then that student must be sent away.
“The bearer of this letter is a former student of ours…who has been expelled for a most serious defection from our strictest rules of deportment…I beg of you, sir, to help him continue in the direction of that promise which, like the horizon, recedes ever brightly and distantly beyond the hopeful traveler” (190-191).
Dr. Bledsoe is again playing the game as he pretends like he is the “slave” to the white men. His intentions are, however, to keep the Invisible Man on the track of hope when the letters of “recommendations” are only letters of rejection. “The idea is to open each bucket and put in ten drops of this stuff,” he said. “Then you stir it ‘til it disappears. After it’s mixed you take this brush and paint out a sample on one of these” (200)
The mixing of the black paint into the white paint symbolizes the American society and how the Liberty Paints factory works. On the outside, all you see is white, but the thing that is really making the paint stick is the black drops mixed in. This relates back to society because the blacks are the ones doing all the work while the whites are who people see. “The pulse came swift and staccato, increasing gradually until I fairly danced between the nodes. My teeth chattered. I closed my eyes and by my lips to smother my screams. Warm blood filled my mouth. Between my lids I saw a circle of hands and faces, dazzling with light” (237).
The lobotomy performed on the Invisible Man makes him question his identity and who he really is. When the scientist asked the simple question of “What is your name,” the Invisible Man could not think of the answer, and thus he felt lost into who he was. The Brotherhood believes in reaching the minds of the people through science and through the minds of the people. The Invisible Man, however, spoke to their emotions. Members of the Brotherhood find this unsettling because they don’t need someone to insight the crowd through emotions and feelings. They think through science and intelligence they can lead the people. “I stood there, hearing the rapping of his gavel echoing in my ears, thinking the woman question and searching their faces for signs of amusement, listening to their voices as they filed out into the hall for the lightest sound of suppressed laughter, stood there fighting the sense that I had just been made the butt of an outrageous joke and all the more so since their faces revealed no awareness” (407).
The Invisible Man feels like the two things he had to choose between was a joke and that the Brotherhood really did not think that Westrum was serious. However, the Invisible Man still submits to taking on the woman question because he wants that feeling of being like he belongs somewhere, such as the Brotherhood.

“It was not suicide, but murder. The committee had planned it. And I had helped, had been a tool. A tool just at the very moment I had thought myself free. By pretending to agree I had indeed agree, had made myself responsible for that huddle form lighted by flame and gunfire in the street, and all the others whom now the night was making ripe for death” (553).
Brother Westrum charged the Invisible Man with use the Brotherhood for the Invisible Man’s own doing, but in actuality, the Brotherhood was using the Invisible Man to fire up the crowd. The Brotherhood planned the race riot, Ras, and everything, without informing the Invisible Man of any of it. They were using the Invisible Man to get what they wanted without letting him know any of it.
“I’ve overstayed my hibernation, since there’s a possibility that even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play” (581).
In the beginning, at the Battle Royal, the Invisible Man talked about social responsibility to the white men, and now at the end, he comes back to the idea of social responsibility. The Invisible Man has twisted his grandfather’s words and now feels like it is his social responsibility to not fight against, but to work with everyone else out there.
Special thanks to PrometisDesign.com Produced By Kevin Guebert
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