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The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Pd 6 O'Brien

Alexa Glenn

on 3 May 2011

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Transcript of The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison Presentation By Alexa Glenn PD 6 Ralph Waldo Ellison Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1914 Named after Ralph Waldo Emerson Studied at Tuskegee Institute with a scholarship in music Moved to New York and met author Richard Wright, which started Ellison's first attempts at writing Became a merchant marine during WWII Published Invisible man in 1952 In 1955 he traveled abroad then returned in 1958 to teach literature at Bard College Started writing Juneteenth, Published Shadow and act, and began teaching at rutgers university and yale university Honors Received in his lifetime:
-National Book Award- 1953
-Presidential medal of freedom
-Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
-elected to the American academy of arts and letters
-langston Hughes Medal
-national medal of arts
-special achievement award from the anisfield-wolf book awards Ellison always believed that "Invisible man" was an "attempt at a major novel", and never thought he was finished with it. At the end of his life he still had not finished his second novel "juneteenth" which had grown to over 2000 pages by the time he died. In 1969 became a permanent member of the faculty at new york university Died in 1994 of pancreatic cancer Summary:
A nameless man throughout the book, the narrator starts the story in New York City. He explains that he is the "invisible man" because he is black. Then, he remembers earlier life when he inadvertently shows a trustee of his college the hardships blacks face daily in the South. He is expelled and finds work in the north. After a failed attempt working in the paint industry, and having his memory stripped by doctors, he works as a member of a brotherhood fighting racism. A series of events after joining the brotherhood returns him to his modern day as “invisible”. Influences Major literary movement:
Postmodernism Characteristics:
-concern with individual in isolation
-Social issues as writers align with
feminist and ethnic groups
- present tense
- magic realism Magic realism-
a style of painting and literature in which fantastic or imaginary and often unsettling images or events are depicted in a sharply detailed, realistic manner.
- dictionary.com Critical Analysis Theme: Man's search for his identity "To them, the federal government was both remote and unhelpful... Local people, they decided, must take direct action to change racial patterns in their communities."
-History now Historical Events In the 1930's (the time that the book was set in) the fight against racism wasnt really going anywhere This is exemplified in the book when the narrator joins a group (the brotherhood) that is fighting for civil rights in their local community. Major historical events of the 1950's (time book was written) "one was massive movement of black americans out of the rural south in order to take defense related-jobs in Northern and Western Cities."
- History Now In the book the narrator moves from the south to the north because he believed that it was the only way he could get a job The Scottsboro Boys: Jim Crow on Trial circa 1931
- Crime Magazine "...there was one constant flaw-myself. There was no getting around it. I could no more escape than i could think of my identity."
(page 243) This was after the narrator was wiped of his memory- he couldn't remember his name or anything else about his life. He tried unsuccessfully to figure out his identity, and was ultimately given a new identity to live by. ""You start saul, and end up paul," my grandfather had often said. "When you're a youngun {sic}, you {sic} Saul, but let life whup {sic} your head a bit and you starts {sic} to trying to be paul- though you still Sauls {sic} around on the side.""
(Page 381) as life progresses the identity of people changes, what they are saying in this quote is that you search for your new identity while still holding onto the identity you had. " But he knew that only in the brotherhood could we make ourselves known, could we avoid being empty sambo dolls."
(page 434) The narrator of the book believes that the ony true way to figure out his identity is to make his voice heard, and be a part of something important. He thought that if he didnt he would become an empty shell of a person. "What on earth was hiding behind the face of things? If dark glasses and a white hat could blot out my identity so quickly, who actually was who?"
(page 493) The narrator realizes that just by putting on a disguise, he could make himself someone else. When he realizes this he wonders if what he knew was really as they were. Theme: Limitations of Ideology "... The younger crowd for whom I now felt a contempt such as only a disillusioned dreamer feels for those still unaware that they dream."
(page 256) The narrator now knows the limitations of ideology and feels a bitternees towards the young men that are completely oblivious to the fact that there is a reality of the world, that he sees and they dont. " Think about it, they've disposessed us each of one eye from the day we're born. So now we can only see in straight white lines."
(Page 343) The narrator understands the limitaitons of the ideaology of the black population. the white population, from birth, have already taken away part of their ideaology before they even had a chance to formulate it. "... and Brother Tod Clifton and a young white couple (it had been felt unwise simply to show Clifton and the girl) surrounded by a group of children of mixed races, representing the future,..."
(page 385) Without even realizing it the narrator has shown another limitation to ideology. He is talking about this plan for the future but he is restricted by the ideals and laws that society holds against the black population at the time the book was written. "I was never more hated then when i tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now i've tried to articulate exactly what i felt to be the truth. No one was satisfied- not even I.
(Page 572) Again the narrator expresses that he knows his limitations. He knows that if he tells the truth that people will hate him for it, no matter how much the truth needs to be heard. He is instead forced to lie no matter how strongly he feels about a subject. Works Cited
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage Books, 1952.
“Literary periods and their characteristics.” 1 May 2011. <http://staff.edmonds.wednet.edu/users/hansonk/LITERARY%20PERIODS%20AND%20THEIR%20CHARACTERISTICS.htm>
Noe, Denise. “The Scottsboro Boys: Jim Crow on Trial.” Crime Magazine: An encyclopedia of crime. 13 July 2009. Crime Magazine. 1 May 2011. < http://www.crimemagazine.com/scottsboro-boys-jim-crow-trial>

Patterson, James T. “The Civil Rights movement: Major Events and Legacies” History Now. 8 June 2006. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. 1 May 2011. < http://www.gilderlehrman.org/historynow/06_2006/historian5.php>

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