Standing as the first chapter of Ellison's 1952 novel Invisible Man, ‘‘The Invisible Man’’ (a.k.a. ‘‘Battle Royal’’ or ‘‘Smoker’’) shares in critics' emphatic acclaim for the novel and the subsequent rise of the novel to fundamental literary importance. The story first appeared as "The Invisible Man'' in the October, 1947 issue of the British literary periodical The Horizon (edited by Cyril Connolly). In adapting the story to the first chapter of the novel, Ellison made some minor alterations and added three final sentences to the story:
It was a dream I was to remember and dream again for many years after. But at the time I had no insight into its meaning. First I had to attend college.
The critical review of the 1952 novel was immediately appreciative; Wright Morris reviewed the book in the New York Times on April 13, 1952, and wrote, ‘‘With this book the author maps a course from the underground world into the light. Invisible Man belongs on the shelf with classical efforts man has made to chart the river Lethe from its mouth to its source.’’
Irving Howe reviewed the novel for The Nation, giving it a generally favorable review while criticizing its facile appeal to an "unqualified assertion of individuality.’’ Howe begins the review with a description of the opening chapter, "The beginning is nightmare. A Negro boy, timid and...
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