Invisible Man Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

Ralph Ellison

Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Dr. Bledsoe: the president of the college

Upon returning to campus, the narrator drops Mr. Norton off and goes to see Dr. Bledsoe, the president of the college. Feeling certain that he will be blamed for having subjected Mr. Norton to both Jim Trueblood’s story and the events at the Golden Day, the narrator is in an agony of nervousness.

Dr. Bledsoe is greatly disconcerted by the course of events and, despite Mr. Norton’s words to the contrary, does indeed blame the narrator. The narrator is ordered to see Dr. Bledsoe later that evening, after attending a campus church service. Both on the way to his room, and once having arrived there, the narrator is accosted by fellow students, whose blithe chatter further strains the narrator’s nerves.

In this chapter, the narrator becomes aware of the danger he faces. Having broken unwritten rules, he expects a severe penalty for what he has done, although this is unconfirmed. The narrator does not realize that his not having done anything will not make any difference.

Ellison makes good use of suspense. Although the character telling the story has already lived through it and knows what happened, the resolution of the narrator’s fears are withheld from the reader, who is kept in suspense along with the young man in the memory.

This is far more effective than if the narrator had told us what happened, and then explained how that conclusion came into being. The chronology of the day’s events (remember that this day started in Chapter Two and is not yet over) is meticulously followed.

There is little large-scale drama here, as we saw at the Golden Day. Instead, more subtle clues tell the reader about the characters. For example, the narrator notices the extent to which Dr. Bledsoe changes when he is with Mr. Norton. The reader has an opportunity to see how Dr. Bledsoe acts toward the narrator.