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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
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Invisible Man (1952)

by Ralph Ellison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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11,931148315 (3.99)611
1940s (17)
1950s (36)
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» See also 611 mentions

English (145)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
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 |
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is another title from the list of 100 books compiled for the Great American Read. (Have you voted today?) I feel somewhat chagrined that I had never heard of this classic until I checked out this list. The reader follows a nameless narrator who tells the story of his days in college while living in the South to his move to New York City. As this is set in 1930-40 the racial/social divide is still quite stark even in the North and the author doesn't pull any punches in that regard (i.e. expect violence). The beginning starts out with our narrator underground and in hiding although we have no idea why. In explanation, he weaves a story full of brutality, bigotry, backstabbing, and political machinations. He leaves college and goes to NYC where he is recruited into the Brotherhood which purports to strive for equality among all men regardless of race. Events unfold quickly and he fully believes and embraces the cause. The fomenting of racial riots are underway in Harlem (his district) and at this pivotal moment he is pulled out of his district and sent on another assignment downtown. The reader is kept on their toes and always wondering (as the narrator is) just which side is the "right" side and what is truly motivating the men he has come to trust in this (to him) foreign city. What is the "true" self and how does one embrace it? Invisible Man chews this question over while telling a story of one man coming to terms with the racism (both overt and covert) of society which is told so convincingly that you'll forget it's a work of fiction at times. This is a dense book and took me far longer to read than I expected. Several interesting points were made and quite a few powerful passages but overall it doesn't rate higher than a 6/10 for me.

A compelling and thought provoking point:
"For history records the patterns of men's lives, they say: Who slept with whom and with what results; who fought and who won and who lived to lie about it afterwards. ...only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, these lies his keepers keep their power by." - pg 439 ( )
  AliceaP | Aug 18, 2018 |
This book was not at all what I expected. Detailing the life of our unnamed narrator, who is so profoundly alienated as a black man that he calls himself invisible, this masterfully written novel also manages to be very entertaining. Lots of action, twists, and humor, but with such an important message. Joe Morton was exceptional as narrator on the audio. I couldn’t get enough of this book, no matter how upsetting it was. ( )
  sprainedbrain | Aug 12, 2018 |
I would love to give this 3 1/2 stars, although I admire the themes, the message and some of the storytelling, I found the writing, overall, to be overwrought and distracting. The storytelling is very choppy and does not flow well. It was not a pleasurable read, nor was it always an engaging novel. Some chapters were brilliant, some were tedious and meandering. Can't wait to hear the reviews/discussion at book club! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
This is a debut novel by Ralph Ellison about what it's like to grow up as a black man in mid-century America. It has many experiences that show how blacks are treated just because they are black. This book should not be confused with H.G. Wells book where the invisible man was actually invisible. Race is what will keep this black man in his permanent underclass status thus denying him his humanity. It is a powerful read and should not be missed. ( )
  EadieB | Jun 12, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 145 (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

Has as a reference guide/companion

Has as a study

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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
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
Dedication
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)

» see all 8 descriptions

Legacy Library: Ralph Ellison

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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