Invisible Man Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis

Ralph Ellison

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 surroundings.

If any one part of the novel suggests the possibility that the narrator is not mentally sound, it is this chapter. The questions of the “doctors,” and the thoughts that those questions provoke, clearly show the deep confusion inside the narrator. This confusion manifests itself toward the end of the chapter, in both the questions he asks and the descriptions of the world around him.

One possibility to consider is that, in addition to his recent accident at the factory, the narrator is probably very tired. The incident at Jim Trueblood’s cabin took place not many months before, and in that time the narrator has had a lot of exhausting adventures.