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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man (original 1952; edition 1995)

by Ralph Ellison (Author)

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12,291150316 (3.99)613
Title:Invisible Man
Authors:Ralph Ellison (Author)
Info:Vintage Books (1995), Edition: 2nd, 581 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites

Work details

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (Author) (1952)

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    M_Clark: This very cynical novel takes place during the same time period as "The Invisible Man" and provides additional perspectives on race during the post WWII years.
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1940s (22)
1950s (26)
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English (147)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 147 (next | show all)
A phenomenal piece of art. Top notch! ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 5, 2019 |
This book follows the unnamed narrator through his memoirs which explain how and why he became invisible. He attends college, moves to New York City in the hopes of finding work to fund the rest of his college career but quickly loses his first job at a factory. Then he falls in with The Brotherhood, a group of both black and white people working together in brotherhood to promote peace. They hire the narrator on as a speaker to make speeches to crowds in Harlem.
This book gives the reader an opportunity to view 1930s New York from the perspective of a black man, something that we (still) don’t see a lot of in fiction set in this time period. The narrator’s life is full of experiences that are way out of his control, and he is often a passive character with things just happening to him, rather than him choosing to do things. This is not accidental. One could take the universal view that everyone lacks a certain amount of agency in their own lives and ends up just going with the flow, but I doubt the author’s intent was to point out that universal truth. Rather, I think he meant to highlight how African Americans, especially before the Civil Rights Movement, were at the mercy of what white people wanted: because if they didn’t comply or go along with it, they could be killed or thrown in prison. The narrator ‘goes along with it’ until he simply can’t anymore; until he realizes just how much he has been used by others; until he ultimately decides to become invisible (or to accept his invisibility, depending on how you interpret things) and live underground.
This book is a classic for a reason. It has also been included in The Great American Read list. It provides an import view on the African American experience in America. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read a piece of classic 20th century fiction. Also, considering one of the author’s influences was Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed that book. ( )
  Jessiqa | Feb 9, 2019 |
A fascinating look at race and culture. Through this tortured young man's story we see the absurdity of our culture and society, compelling the conclusion we are childish, selfish, foolish souls wandering through this experience. Very moving, disturbing and inspiring. ( )
  DonaldPowell | Feb 5, 2019 |
Read in AP English some years ago. LOVED this book then, though having a hard time rereading it almost 10 years later. ( )
  AFaith | Nov 7, 2018 |
I was initially bored with this as I struggled to keep up with the seeming disjointed, tangential plotline. Eventually, though, I found myself sucked in and really enjoyed it. ( )
  benuathanasia | Sep 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 147 (next | show all)
"Invisible Man" is tough, brutal and sensational. It is uneven in quality. But it blazes with authentic talent.

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ellison, RalphAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Callahan, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellison, RalphIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morton, JoeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"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
HARRY: I tell you, it is not me you are looking at,

Not me you arre 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
To Ida
First words
"I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679732764, Paperback)

We rely, in this world, on the visual aspects of humanity as a means of learning who we are. This, Ralph Ellison argues convincingly, is a dangerous habit. A classic from the moment it first appeared in 1952, Invisible Man chronicles the travels of its narrator, a young, nameless black man, as he moves through the hellish levels of American intolerance and cultural blindness. Searching for a context in which to know himself, he exists in a very peculiar state. "I am an invisible man," he says in his prologue. "When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me." But this is hard-won self-knowledge, earned over the course of many years.

As the book gets started, the narrator is expelled from his Southern Negro college for inadvertently showing a white trustee the reality of black life in the south, including an incestuous farmer and a rural whorehouse. The college director chastises him: "Why, the dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie! What kind of an education are you getting around here?" Mystified, the narrator moves north to New York City, where the truth, at least as he perceives it, is dealt another blow when he learns that his former headmaster's recommendation letters are, in fact, letters of condemnation.

What ensues is a search for what truth actually is, which proves to be supremely elusive. The narrator becomes a spokesman for a mixed-race band of social activists called "The Brotherhood" and believes he is fighting for equality. Once again, he realizes he's been duped into believing what he thought was the truth, when in fact it is only another variation. Of the Brothers, he eventually discerns: "They were blind, bat blind, moving only by the echoed sounds of their voices. And because they were blind they would destroy themselves.... Here I thought they accepted me because they felt that color made no difference, when in reality it made no difference because they didn't see either color or men."

Invisible Man is certainly a book about race in America, and sadly enough, few of the problems it chronicles have disappeared even now. But Ellison's first novel transcends such a narrow definition. It's also a book about the human race stumbling down the path to identity, challenged and successful to varying degrees. None of us can ever be sure of the truth beyond ourselves, and possibly not even there. The world is a tricky place, and no one knows this better than the invisible man, who leaves us with these chilling, provocative words: "And it is this which frightens me: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" --Melanie Rehak

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:06 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In the course of his wanderings from a Southern Negro college to New York's Harlem, an American black man becomes involved in a series of adventures. Introduction explains circumstances under which the book was written. Ellison won the National Book Award for this searing record of a black man's journey through contemporary America. Unquestionably, Ellison's book is a work of extraordinary intensity--powerfully imagined and written with a savage, wryly humorous gusto.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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