Fill in these three statements with regards to the novel: Reality is ______ to an Invisible Man. Morality is _____ to an Invisible Man. Aspirations are _____ to an Invisible Man.
(One question at a time, please...)
"Reality is a hole in the basement to an Invisible Man."
The narrator sees his pre-invisible days (in the South, at school, at work, in the Brotherhood) as a dream, not reality.
So says Enotes, regarding chapters 2-3, his college years:
[They are] a promise of a better life for blacks, but in reality a wasteland. He thinks of the multimillionaires as representing the rich white world. They are happy to contribute to a black school that teaches black youth to think and behave only as the rich white world wants them to. The millionaires are like the white men who conduct the Battle Royal. They are powerful and in control of the school.
Both black and white societies reveal ambition to be blinding, not reality. Only in his basement with his 1,369 lights can he see himself for who he really is:
"When I discover who I am, I'll be free" (243)
In society the Invisible Man is victimized by whites, betrayed by blacks, and alienated by institutions, industry, and religious, labor, and political organizations. In the end, he chooses to live abandoned by all in his basement, savoring his newfound invisibility. Ralph Ellison's response to the American anti-black racial problem is not so much a social solution, but an existential one. To be invisible, in a sense, is to be a conscious individual who cannot be predicted or manipulated.