Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 521

New Character
Brother Wrestrum: the chief speaker of the Brothers present when the narrator gives his speech

Illustration of PDF document

Download Invisible Man Study Guide

Subscribe Now

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, in his new suit and new name. He ponders whether or not he knows this new person.

One set of thoughts leads to the next, until the Brotherhood group finally enters the arena. The narrator stumbles while walking, but then regains his balance. The speeches blend into each other, without making much impression on the narrator, until it is his turn to speak.

Although the narrator feels he started off badly, his ability to move a crowd comes to him, and he finishes amid the roars of the audience. Moments after the congratulations of the crowd, some members of the Brotherhood severely criticize the narrator’s performance, using forms of disapproval from “unsatisfactory” to “hysterical.” Although there is division on whether or not the speech was damaging, it is decided that the narrator will study with Brother Hambro and be trained to “speak scientifically.”

The narrator goes home and broods on the evening. Memories of his grandfather recur, as do memories of Woodbridge, an English professor from college. This thought leads to Bledsoe and Norton, and the harm that they did to the narrator. The narrator resolves to learn from Hambro and then be done with him, the better to do his own work.

Despite the catty remarks in Emma’s apartment, this chapter holds the first real indications of reversals and instability that the narrator faces in the Brotherhood. After a seemingly powerful and certainly successful speech, the narrator is confronted with disgust and disdain from certain members of the organization.

Added to this is the narrator’s recurrent questions about identity. While waiting to go into the arena, he asks himself about the person he is becoming. After the speech, when the narrator has time to reflect on both the speech itself and on the different receptions it received, he again wonders about what is real, in his life and within his personality. This vulnerability will not serve him well in surroundings that are already unpredictable.

Notice that one image early in the chapter is significant—that of the boxer who was beaten into blindness. Moreover, references to blindness show up in the narrator’s speech. The question of sightlessness is linked to invisibility, since boxers generally fight for the profit and entertainment of others and are less likely to be perceived as true individuals. Also, it is hard to avoid invisibility when one cannot even see both one’s self or the people around one.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial

Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis


Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis

Explore Study Guides