In Invisible Man, specifically in the prologue section, who are the "sleeping ones"?

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The narrator describes "the sleeping ones" thoroughly in the Prologue. His "invisibility" occurs due to "a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact." However, it is not their actual eyes to which the narrator refers, but "their inner eyes." These are the eyes that they use to "look through their physical eyes upon reality." These people have "poor vision" and, like those with literally poor vision, they are constantly bumping into others—metaphorically, black people—and not seeing them, as though they do not really exist.

In other instances, the narrator feels like a creature from a "nightmare" whom a "sleeper" tries to destroy. His physical confrontation with a tall, blond, blue-eyed man who bumps into him and insults him mirrors this. The man does not see the narrator, but curses him for his physical presence. The blond man is a specific example of a "sleeper" or one of the "sleeping ones"—people, white people we infer, who do not see the narrator because he is a black man, or a figure of the "near darkness." In the passage the "darkness" symbolizes the nightmarish or unbearable visions that racism has created in the white imagination. Furthermore, the narrator's lack of visibility is contrasted with that of a tall, blond, blue-eyed man, someone who would be very much recognized in a culture that values and centers around white people.

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Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, tells the story of a narrator that lives within a racist white world.  The narrator mentions sleepwalkers in the prologue to the novel.  The prologue revolves around the narrator listening to Louis Armstrong, while reflecting upon the event that has just happened at night in the cover of darkness. 

The narrator is confronted by a white man who hurls insults at him.  The narrator becomes very upset and angry with the man, who is one of the sleeping ones.  The narrator considers attacking the man with a knife, but changes his mind.  The sleepwalkers, or sleeping ones, refer to white racist society.  They sleep through life unless awakened by violence towards others that do not conform to their world order. 

The man who confronts the narrator in the prologue fits the description of the sleepwalkers perfectly.  This is because in the next morning's newspapers, the incident is described as a mugging, with the narrator as the perpetrator.  This is an example of the sleeping ones who refuse to awaken to the reality of racism.

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