Summary of the Novel
Invisible Man is a first-person novel. It concerns an unnamed narrator, whom the reader meets in the Prologue. In the Epilogue, the narrator seems to “rejoin” the reader once again.
Other than his memories of his grandfather’s death, the narrator reveals nothing about his childhood. After the humiliating battle royal (a chaotic boxing match, along with sundry torments, in which high school boys competed), he goes to college, where he has an experience in betrayal that changes his life.
Having inadvertently taken an important visitor to the wrong places, the narrator is left exposed to the harsh judgment of Dr. Bledsoe, the president of the college. The narrator is emotionally scarred by what has happened.
Forced to leave the college that he loved, the narrator takes a bus to New York City to find work. There he tries to use letters of recommendation, but to no avail. He eventually takes a job in a paint factory. Another unpleasant lesson ensues there, for the narrator is untrained for the work. He is placed under the thumb of a bitter and distrusting man, who maneuvers the narrator into an industrial accident.
The narrator is once again torn loose from his moorings. After the accident, the narrator endured a bizarre experience, in which medical personnel tortured him. Mary, a stranger, finds the narrator in the street, and offers him a home. Soon afterward, a protest of the eviction of an old couple leads the narrator to join a political group called the Brotherhood.
The narrator seems to advance in the organization, but the petty politics and machinations of those around him ensure the narrator’s instability. Eventually, the narrator is betrayed by the Brotherhood. Not long after one of the members is killed by a policeman, a riot begins. In the growing confusion, the narrator takes to the underground.
The Life and Work of Ralph Waldo Ellison
Ralph Waldo Ellison was born on March 1, 1914, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He died on April 16, 1994, in Harlem, New York. He was named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, a great nineteenth-century writer. When Lewis Ellison thought of the future, he saw his son, the poet.
The narrator of Invisible Man shows an interest in Ralph Waldo Emerson. The young Ralph Ellison felt a burden attached to this great name, a pressure to become great himself, and it made him uncomfortable.
Ralph Ellison did not grow up in the Deep South, as his parents had, and this made an important difference in his life. Oklahoma was a new territory, offering a chance for a better life than in the former slave states, despite the Jim Crow laws that white settlers brought with them.
Ellison went to Douglass High School (named after Frederick Douglass), and then to Tuskegee Institute, a well-known historically black college in Alabama, in June 1933. He was unhappy at Tuskegee, and his impressions of that college are reflected in the narrator’s experiences with Dr. Bledsoe in Invisible Man. Ellison never finished his degree. Instead, he left for New York in the spring of 1936. The great promise of Harlem was calling his name.
Once he arrived, Ellison took odd jobs and met the leading black artists and intellectuals of his day. The atmosphere was vibrant, and Ellison, whose artistic abilities included music, sculpture, writing, and photography, participated in what was later called the Harlem Renaissance. Soon, through the encouragement of black American writer Richard Wright author of Native Son, Ellison was publishing book reviews and short stories.
Ellison worked on Invisible Man for five years. It was published in 1952 and won the National Book Award for fiction. Ellison’s only novel, it established his literary reputation. He also published two collections of essays: Shadow and Act in 1964 and Going into the Territory in 1986.
Ellison died in Harlem, New York, which had been his home for twenty years, and which he immortalized in his masterpiece, Invisible Man.
The physical and emotional segregation of an earlier American society is a main subject of Invisible Man. It is considered a classic because of its writing, and also for its portrayal of the experiences of African Americans. At the same time, as Ellison himself had frequently asserted before his death, the book goes beyond specific questions of race relations. It touches upon the dynamics of personal identity, and the ways and limits in which people can know each other.
Though no specific years are given in the novel, there are clues for the reader. The shell-shocked men at the Golden Day, a local tavern and halfway house, respond to the name of General Pershing, indicating that World War I is part of their pasts. There is no mention of World War II. There is frequent mention of black people who contributed to the American experience earlier in this century, such as Louis Armstrong, Paul Robeson, and Joe Louis, as well as ideas that affected blacks, like Jim Crow laws.
One of the central themes of the novel is the extent to which its black characters feel free to express themselves in what they are told is a “white man’s world.” Whether this has changed is a matter of discussion and debate by trained professionals, such as sociologists and psychologists, and by students and working people as well.
Invisible Man was published in 1952. Some of its scenes anticipate the civil rights protests that would alter this country in that decade and the next. The first six chapters take place in the Deep South. Then, like many black Americans who left the South for more hospitable places, the narrator departs for New York City. At first, he finds it to be the better world that some have told him about, but his optimism is eventually shattered.
Master List of Characters
The Narrator—tells the story of his life, but remains unnamed throughout the novel
Grandfather—although not appearing in the novel, he is an important influence on the narrator because of the deathbed scene
Jackson—a particularly sadistic member of the audience at the battle royal; he tries to attack the blindfolded boys, but is restrained from doing so
Tatlock—the very large, mean boy that the narrator is forced to fight at the battle royal
Mr. Norton—an important benefactor of the college that the narrator attends
The Founder—an almost mythical man, who founded the college the narrator attends; he is no longer alive; a statue of him stands on the campus, and many different characters talk about him, but the reader never finds out his name or the race to which he belonged
Dr. Bledsoe—president of the college the narrator attends
Jim Trueblood—a poor farmer on the land adjacent to the college
The Vet—the man who helps Mr. Norton at the Golden Day tavern and in the process tells some deep truths about the narrator’s situation; the narrator talks with him again, on the bus
Big Halley—the bartender at the Golden Day
Supercargo—the attendant at the Golden Day
Sylvester—a mental patient and client at the Golden Da
Edna—a prostitute at the Golden Day.
The Reverend Homer A. Barbee—the man who gives the address at the narrator’s college
Crenshaw—the man in charge of taking the vet from the Golden Day to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a well-known mental institution in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Emerson’s son—the man who shows the narrator the contents of a letter written by Dr. Bledsoe
Mr. Kimbro and Mr. MacDuffy—the white men at the Liberty Paint Factory
Lucius Brockway—the man in charge of the boilers at the Liberty Paint Factory
Mary—the woman who finds the narrator on the street and gives him a home
Ras the Exhorter—a powerful leader of a major protest movement in Harlem; there is much conflict between his ideology and that of the Brotherhood movement; near the end of the novel, Ras changes his name from “Ras the Exhorter” to “Ras the Destroyer”
Brother Jack—the first member of “the Brotherhood,” a movement that the narrator becomes involved in after his experience in public speaking
Emma—a friend of the Brotherhood; an attractive, affluent woman, she owns the apartment where the narrator is introduced to the other members of the Brotherhood
Brother Hambro—the man who trains the narrator in the art of rhetoric (argumentation and speech-making)
Brother Tarp—a member of the Brotherhood’s Harlem office; an older man, he is friendly to the narrator; his limp was caused by a traumatic incident in his past
Brother Tod Clifton—another member of the Brotherhood; a charismatic young man, he comes to a dramatic and mysterious end
Brother Wrestrum—a member of the Brotherhood who seems to oppose the narrator’s career there
Brother Tobitt—a member of the Brotherhood’s Headquarters committee, whose sarcasm irritates the narrator; he takes a lead role in the accusations against the narrator
Hubert’s wife—an unnamed woman, with whom the narrator has an affair
Rinehart—a shadowy local figure, both a criminal and a preacher, for whom the narrator is repeatedly mistaken
Brother Maceo—one of the missing brothers; when the narrator finally finds Brother Maceo, he doesn’t recognize him, because the narrator has on his “Rinehart disguise”
Sybil—the wife of one of the men in the organization; she and the narrator have an abortive affair
Dupre—the leader of a bunch of looters, whom the narrator meets during the riots
Scofield—one of the looters in the group
Estimated Reading Time
The average silent-reading rate for a secondary student is 250 to 300 words per minute, making the total reading time for this novel about 19 hours.
Invisible Man can be a challenging novel. Teachers will no doubt be sensitive to Ellison’s subject matter and technique, and divide their assignments accordingly. Allow plenty of time to enjoy this great work. Reading the book according to the natural chapter breaks is the best approach, although most of the longer chapters have their own divisions.
Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Frequently discussed as a novel addressing racial identity in modern, urban America, Invisible Man is also discussed regarding the larger issue of personal identity, especially self-assertion and personal expression in a metaphorically blind world. In the novel, the unnamed young black narrator is invisible within the larger culture because of his race. Race itself, in turn, is a metaphor for the individual’s anonymity in modern life. The novel is scathing, angry, and humorous, incorporating a wide range of African American experiences and using a variety of styles, settings, characters, and images. Ralph Ellison uses jazz as a metaphor, especially that of the role of a soloist who is bound within the traditions and...
(The entire section is 629 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The narrator and protagonist in the novel is nameless. An innocent teenager, he was born and grew up in the South of the United States. He is used to the social patterns of the region. With maturity, the narrator gradually recognizes the chaotic understructure of “orderly” society. The demarcation line between the “two” societies is blurred in his mind for the first time when he hears his grandfather’s deathbed instruction to his father. Although the old man seemed to be “obedient” and “obsequious” all his life, he tells his son and grandchildren that he was “a traitor all his born days, a spy in the enemy’s country” and advises them to overcome their enemies “with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree...
(The entire section is 811 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Ellison’s Invisible Man is framed by a prologue and an epilogue that are set at a time after the completion of the novel’s central action. The novel’s picaresque story of a young black man’s misadventures is presented as a memoir written by an older, more experienced embodiment of the protagonist. The narrator of the prologue and epilogue has withdrawn into a state he calls “hibernation” after surviving the multiple deceptions and betrayals that he recounts in his memoir. As he says, “the end is the beginning and lies far ahead.”
The prologue foreshadows the novel’s action. It prepares the reader for the narrator’s final condition; focuses the reader’s attention on the major themes of...
(The entire section is 1460 words.)
Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Having spoken in the prologue of his need to come out into the light, to surface from a building that has been “rented strictly to whites” and “shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century,” the narrator gives immediate notice that he is telling not a single but a typological, or multiple, story. Everything that has happened to him bears the shadow of prior African American history. He vows, however, that all past “hibernation,” all past “invisibility,” must now end. It falls to him to “illuminate”—that is, literally and figuratively to write into being—the history that has at once made both him and black America at large so “black and blue” but that has also represented a triumph of human...
(The entire section is 893 words.)
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Prologue Summary and Analysis
The narrator: tells the story of his life, but remains unnamed
The Prologue introduces the narrator with a monologue set inside the narrator’s head. After having many adventures, which the reader will discover more about in the chapters to come, the narrator is resting and isolated. He uses the word “hibernation” to describe his status.
The Prologue begins with the narrator announcing that he is an invisible man. But he is also a man of substance—“flesh and bone, fiber and liquids”—not a creation of books or movies. In making clear that he is not literally invisible, the narrator proceeds to discuss what his invisibility is...
(The entire section is 470 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Grandfather: not an actual character, although his dying words greatly disturb the narrator
Jackson: a particularly sadistic member of the audience at the battle royal
Tatlock: a large and vicious boy whom the narrator is forced to fight during the battle royal
A brief anecdote about the narrator’s grandfather begins the chapter. Through his childhood and early adulthood, the narrator is confused by his grandfather’s “deathbed curse.” After the narrator gives his high school graduation speech on humility, he is invited to give his speech before a special audience. At this event, the narrator realizes that young men from...
(The entire section is 471 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Norton: the rich, white, northern benefactor whom the narrator chauffeurs in a college-owned car
Jim Trueblood: the poor sharecropper who tells Mr. Norton a story
The narrator drives Mr. Norton along the quiet roadways of the campus where the narrator attends college. The nervous narrator is reassured by Mr. Norton’s confidence and curiosity about the narrator’s future. Mr. Norton and the narrator also talk about Mr. Norton’s daughter, who died suddenly and mysteriously.
After a few chance turns, they reach an area of old cabins. The narrator repeats what is told about Jim Trueblood, owner of one of the cabins—that...
(The entire section is 336 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
Big Halley: a bartender at the Golden Day
Sylvester: a mental patient and a patron of the Golden Day
Supercargo: the attendant/warden at the Golden Day
The vet: a strange little man who tends to Mr. Norton’s condition upstairs; the talk that the two of them have puts the vet in a vulnerable position
Edna: a prostitute at the Golden Day; she shows great interest in spending more time with Mr. Norton
The car arrives at the Golden Day, a bar and whorehouse. Mr. Norton requires “a stimulant,” in the form of alcohol, to overcome the shock of Jim Trueblood’s story. Mr. Norton’s condition is unknown,...
(The entire section is 556 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
Dr. Bledsoe: the president of the college
Upon returning to campus, the narrator drops Mr. Norton off and goes to see Dr. Bledsoe, the president of the college. Feeling certain that he will be blamed for having subjected Mr. Norton to both Jim Trueblood’s story and the events at the Golden Day, the narrator is in an agony of nervousness.
Dr. Bledsoe is greatly disconcerted by the course of events and, despite Mr. Norton’s words to the contrary, does indeed blame the narrator. The narrator is ordered to see Dr. Bledsoe later that evening, after attending a campus church service. Both on the way to his room, and once having arrived there,...
(The entire section is 327 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
The Reverend Homer A. Barbee: the man who gives the sermon the narrator hears in this chapter; Barbee provides a perspective of hollow pride and rhetoric
As ordered by Dr. Bledsoe, the narrator goes to the college chapel. Before the evening’s guest speaker begins his sermon, the narrator meditates upon his own precarious status. He then recalls the times that he spoke publicly at the college.
He returns to the present scene, describing the people there, including Dr. Bledsoe. There is a choir solo and the sermon begins, praising the lives and visions of those who built the college.
The sermon is...
(The entire section is 446 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
After some last-minute panic and forestalling, the narrator has his interview with Dr. Bledsoe. Though the conversation begins pleasantly, it changes suddenly when the college president heaps abuse upon the narrator. Then Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator his decision. The narrator is dismissed from college.
The narrator’s first response is outrage and anger. This shocks and then amuses Dr. Bledsoe, who says the narrator is powerless. When it comes right down to it, the narrator does not really exist, because he does not matter. The college president tells the narrator about how a person gets power, and what it means to have it.
Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator that he will give...
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis
Crenshaw: the man in charge of getting the vet to his new home
Ras (later known as “Ras the Exhorter”): the leader of a political group in Harlem
The narrator takes a bus from campus, beginning the next part of his life. He carries letters of introduction from Dr. Bledsoe. Two other men are traveling that day—the Vet (the inmate from the Golden Day that provided medical aid to Mr. Norton) and Crenshaw (the Vet’s attendant).
Before the two transfer to another bus, the Vet again comments on the narrator’s situation. Once in New York, the narrator sees the very different lives that blacks can lead in a big northern city....
(The entire section is 251 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
The narrator starts to get to know the city, and begins his search for a job, using the letters. He is plagued by his expectations and fears, but is still fascinated by this new world.
In the first of the huge offices where he delivers his letters, the narrator talks with a receptionist. The narrator wonders whether the reactions he is getting are racially motivated, but decides that they are not. Alone and worried, the narrator hopes for a change.
The narrator’s energies, which were high when he first arrived in New York, are flagging. His feelings of isolation and persecution are increased by his poor prospects for a job.
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Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Emerson’s Son: the man with whom the narrator has an unsuccessful interview
On his way to an important interview, the narrator meets with people who shake his sense of identity. At Mr. Emerson’s office, the narrator delivers his letter and is asked to wait. After a pause, the narrator converses with the man who took the narrator’s letter.
The conversation begins amicably, but deteriorates as the narrator grows uneasy. After much confusion, the man shows the narrator the letter from Dr. Bledsoe. Stating that the narrator was an embarrassment to the college, the letter asks Mr. Emerson to please shun the narrator and his request for...
(The entire section is 327 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis
Mr. MacDuffy: an inconsequential little man who sends the narrator to work for Mr. Kimbro
Mr. Kimbro: a demanding boss who tells the narrator what to do with the paint
Lucius Brockway: the man in charge of the boilers; an old black man, Brockway is wise in the workings of both the people and machinery of the paint factory
The narrator goes to a paint factory in Long Island. He uses Emerson’s name to get the job, and he is nervous about it. The narrator is sent to Mr. Kimbro, who gives him directions for adding an ingredient to the paint. This begins well, until the narrator draws his mixing material from the wrong tank. This...
(The entire section is 623 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis
This chapter is reminiscent of Chapter Five, in that not much happens. The scene is static, and the action is internal. We gather that the narrator is receiving medical treatment from doctors, as a result of the explosion in the boiler room. Yet what begins as compassion turns first to ambiguousness and then swiftly to frightening malice. The doctors are actually torturing him, and his agony is more than simply physical; the questions they ask him, or he asks himself, concern his origins and identity.
At the end of the “medical treatment,” the narrator is not completely lucid. After more conversation, during which he asks nonsense questions, he leaves. He shows little awareness of his...
(The entire section is 230 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis
Mary (Mary Rambo) (Miss Mary): the woman who finds the narrator on the street and brings him to her home
Having left the place where he spent Chapter Eleven, the narrator is very disoriented. After fainting in the street, he is found by Mary Rambo, who insists that he comes home with her to recuperate from his troubles. After a long sleep, he feels better. Although reluctant at first, the narrator decides to accept Mary’s offer of low rent, especially once he realizes that the Men’s House is not a home.
Believing that he sees Bledsoe, the narrator commits a serious faux pas by dumping something (probably a spittoon) on the head of a...
(The entire section is 238 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis
Brother Jack: the first member of the Brotherhood, a group the narrator becomes involved with
While walking the streets, the narrator finds a man selling yams (sweet potatoes) from a cart. The moment the narrator bites into one, he feels homesick. Yet he also feels far better than he had before, and he returns to buy two more yams. Immediately afterward, the narrator becomes involved in a dispute when he sees the eviction of an old black couple. To avoid violence, the narrator gives an impromptu speech, which has a great impact on the crowd. When many police arrive, and a riot looks imminent, the narrator escapes with the help of a white girl.
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Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis
Emma: an attractive woman involved in the Brotherhood; she lives well and hosts Brother Jack and others for a combination business-meeting/party.
Despite some reluctance, the narrator decides to call Brother Jack, who asks the narrator to join him immediately. The narrator meets other members of the Brotherhood, including Emma, the affluent hostess of that evening’s meeting.
The narrator is still suspicious and apprehensive, and the reactions from the party members do not relieve these feelings. They talk in a grand manner, and at first almost seem to disregard the narrator’s presence. They discuss making him into a great speaker, like...
(The entire section is 426 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis
The narrator wakes up on his last morning in Mary’s place. It is a cold morning, and the heat has gone out. Other tenants of the building protest by banging on the pipes, and this enrages the narrator. He grabs a ceramic “piggy bank” shaped like a caricatured black man and smashes it against the pipes. It shatters, and the narrator feels guilty. He resolves to take the mess away with him and throw it out, regardless of the money.
The narrator joins Mary for a brief breakfast. He gives her a hundred-dollar bill, which she nervously accepts. A horde of roaches comes out of the floor, and Mary and the narrator smash them with their feet and a broom. Once on the street, the narrator...
(The entire section is 456 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis
Brother Wrestrum: the chief speaker of the Brothers present when the narrator gives his speech
The narrator accompanies Brother Jack and other Brotherhood members to the rally mentioned at the end of the previous chapter. When they arrive, the narrator is instructed to pay close attention to the other speakers, as the narrator himself will be speaking last.
The rally takes place in a sports arena, and the narrator notices the picture of a well-known boxer. The narrator is reminded of the stories about this boxer, whose career ended in a scandalous fight that left him blind. The narrator then begins to think about the person he is becoming,...
(The entire section is 521 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis
Brother Tarp: an older man who works at the Harlem Brotherhood office
Brother Tod Clifton: another member of the Brotherhood’s Harlem office, a charismatic young man
Four months have passed, during which the narrator has studied rigorously with Brother Hambro. The narrator and Brother Jack go to a bar in Harlem, where the narrator learns that he is the new chief spokesman for the Brotherhood’s Harlem office. Brother Jack cautions the narrator about the uses and misuses of what he has learned. Then the two go to the Harlem office, where they meet Brother Tarp. An old, physically disabled man, he shows the narrator his new office.
(The entire section is 677 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis
The narrator finds an anonymous letter on his desk, warning him about “moving too fast,” considering that he is now in “a white man’s world.” Upset, the narrator calls in Brother Tarp. In that moment, the narrator sees his grandfather staring at him from Tarp’s face.
Once over that shock, the narrator asks Brother Tarp about the letter and about what others think of him. Tarp says he knows nothing about the letter, and has not heard any negative reports on the narrator. Tarp reminds the narrator about a controversial poster, depicting people brought together in universal Brotherhood, which had been the narrator’s idea. Tarp says that while some Brotherhood members were...
(The entire section is 725 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis
Hubert’s wife: an unnamed woman with whom the narrator has an affair
The narrator begins the lectures he was assigned in the previous chapter. He senses that the women, having heard all about him, simply see him before them and are entranced by whatever he says.
At the end of the first lecture, one woman approaches the narrator with a request for further explanations of the Brotherhood’s position regarding women. The narrator offers to discuss her questions privately, and she invites him to her apartment. Once there, she explains that her husband, Hubert, is out of town; otherwise, she says, he would have loved to meet the narrator....
(The entire section is 577 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis
The narrator begins searching for both the missing Brother Tod Clifton and Brother Maceo. In the process, the narrator realizes the extent of the damage done to the Brotherhood’s reputation and position in Harlem. Stopping in a well-known bar, the narrator finds out how little the Brotherhood is now liked. Only the defense of the friendly bar owner keeps the narrator from an argument with those who decry the Brotherhood, thinking themselves forsaken.
The narrator next tries the Harlem office, to seek out Brother Tarp, who is not there. In the morning, however, a number of Brotherhood members show up. The narrator, in addition to asking about Clifton, hears about the Brotherhood’s fall...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis
The narrator returns to the Harlem district. There are indications that the Brotherhood’s position is already improving somewhat, but all the narrator can do is mull over the details of the death and ask himself why he did not do something. He tosses the inert doll on his desk and addresses it bitterly. He then realizes that, distasteful though it might be, a public funeral for Clifton would serve a great purpose.
The youth members, the members of the Brotherhood with whom Clifton had spent the most time, have heard the news and approach the narrator. He confirms the report of Clifton’s death. The district begins to respond with organization and anger, and the narrator is kept very...
(The entire section is 507 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis
Brother Tobitt: the Brotherhood member who leads the attack upon the narrator in this chapter
The narrator goes to the central committee, which is waiting for him. Brother Jack asks about the event, and Brother Tobitt asks why the narrator organized the funeral and the eulogy. The narrator answers reasonably, but emotions escalate immediately.
The committee feels that a traitor such as Clifton did not deserve a hero’s burial. But more than this, the committee will not tolerate any member acting alone, as the narrator did. They act as if they concur with Brother Wrestrum’s earlier accusation that the narrator is acting selfishly, rather...
(The entire section is 398 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary and Analysis
Rinehart: a shadowy local figure, both a criminal and a preacher, for whom the narrator is repeatedly mistaken
Brother Maceo: one of the missing brothers; when the narrator finally finds him, Brother Maceo doesn’t recognize him because the narrator has on his “Rinehart disguise”
Brother Hambro: the narrator’s “instructor”
The narrator goes to Harlem. He avoids conversation, listening instead to the general talk about Clifton’s death. Ras is speaking at a street corner, from a ladder, and picks out the narrator for special scrutiny. The crowd is sullen, but the narrator defends the Brotherhood and himself, and gets...
(The entire section is 712 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary and Analysis
Sybil: the wife of one of the men (George) in the organization; she and the narrator have an abortive affair
The narrator begins to agree with whatever he hears at the Brotherhood, recognizing what it is that the committee wishes to hear and telling them nothing but that. He planned to seduce the wife of one of the Brotherhood’s men, and Brother Jack’s birthday party is the perfect place for the narrator to select a woman. But the narrator finds that his efforts with Sybil only depress him.
She is interested only in fantasies born out of racism. The narrator seems menacing to the white woman, and Sybil finds this prospect highly...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary and Analysis
Dupre: the leader of a bunch of looters whom the narrator meets during the riots in this chapter
Scofield: one of the looters in the group
A full-fledged riot takes place in Harlem. Police shoot and the narrator is injured. Stunned, he wipes the blood from his head and continues. He joins a group of looters stealing goods but not harming anyone. They take clothes and various items; the narrator takes nothing, acting only as an observer. The narrator stays near Scofield, who checks the narrator’s wound and offers him a drink of scotch.
The narrator feels sure that the riot started because of Clifton’s death, but various...
(The entire section is 827 words.)
Epilogue Summary and Analysis
The narrator has told his story, and asks us what else he could have done. The narrator says that he has taken some time out, drank liquor, dreamed, and read books. He uses the word “hibernation” to describe his current status.
He still thinks about his grandfather and the deathbed advice, wrestling with what the man meant, and with how to put the advice into practice. The narrator says he is pondering the lessons of his life. He will leave it up to others to decide whether or not he understood history correctly. He wonders about responsibility for history, and about how people can save themselves.
The one specific incident that the narrator talks about is having met Mr....
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