Invisible Man | Study Guide

Ralph Ellison

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Check out this Infographic to learn more about Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Study visually with character maps, plot summaries, helpful context, and more.

invisible-man-ralph-ellisonSources: Famous Authors, History Channel, Library of Congress,National Book Foundation, New York TimesCopyright © 2016 Course Hero, Inc.Narrator, Prologue am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.IndividualityThe narrator's central struggle is to be seen as a complex individual, outside of racial expectations for a "black man."Social RolesCharacters alter their behaviors to meet expectations.AmbitionAll the novel's characters desire power, but black characters must navigate white supremacy in their pursuitwhich often ends in disillusionment.ColorsDifferent colors represent everything from emotions to music and money.ThemesAuthorMary's BankSymbolizes racial expectations that black men must "perform" for white charityOptic White PaintSymbolizes society's demand for people to hide their "blackness"to achieve successBriefcaseSymbolizes slavery's "baggage" on modern African AmericansSymbolsLike the narrator, Ellison was haunted by his grandparents' slave history, attended a prestigious black college, and eventually settled in Harlem. Inspired by the individualism of jazz, Ellison used fellowship money to pen the richly symbolic Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953.RALPH ELLISON1914–94Brother JackLeader of Brotherhood; believes black men are tools for his own successDr. BledsoeCollege dean; believesblack men should remain submissiveExcellent orator; struggles to find his unique identityNarratorMr. NortonNarcissistic philanthropist; believes black men are charity cases to be civilizedTod CliftonIdealistic orator; believes in a hopeful future for black youth but is driven to despairRas the ExhorterViolent separatist; believes black men should fight against whitesMaryGenerous mother figure; believes in the dignity of black women and menRalph Ellison1952EnglishNovel AuthorYear PublishedOriginal LanguageInvisible ManFictionSee Me For Who I Am, Not What I AmMAIN CHARACTERSInvisible Man is the fictional memoir of an unnamed black narrator's journey of self-discovery. Society sees the narrator as a "black man"—a label rife with racist expectation. His true self is invisible, to both the outside world and himself. He must confront racism, exploitation, and abuse to define his individuality.Invisible Manby the NumbersNovels Ellison published in his lifetime1Weeks Invisible Man was on the best-seller list3Lightbulbs the narrator in Invisible Man burns inhis room1,369

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