Why have white people lavished help upon Trueblood since his disgrace, when they ignored him before his crime?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Invisible Man, Chapter Two follows the narrator's journey as he drives one of the college's white benefactors, Mr. Norton, to visit the seemingly shameful symbol of black culture in the deep South: the old slave quarters, namely Trueblood's cabin.

Jim Trueblood is the poor sharecropper who tells Mr. Norton a story of how he became the father of both his wife and his daughter's children.  The story obviously has mythological and psychoanalytic overtures, as it is a modern retelling of the Oedipus story and a case study in Freud's Oedipus Complex.  Oedipus also married his mother an had four children with her, which were also his siblings, much like Trueblood's incestuous dreams here.

Mr. Norton is living vicariously through the Trueblood story.  He is paying for a salacious story, a kind of prostitution.  Moreover, Mr. Norton is being tricked here by a master storyteller.  Ellison makes it clear that whites have come to Trueblood several times to hear the story, each time paying him afterwards.  Are they paying him as a storyteller, or are they paying him because of some repressed sexual or racial guilt?

Trueblood is not only a master storyteller, the same way Sophocles was in his rendition of the Oedipus story, but he is also a kind of con man; he dupes all these white people out of money.  It is doubtful that the story is true, but Trueblood plays upon white guilt by exposing the seemingly believable and shameful realities of what slavery has done.

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Invisible Man

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