Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 435
After some last-minute panic and forestalling, the narrator has his interview with Dr. Bledsoe. Though the conversation begins pleasantly, it changes suddenly when the college president heaps abuse upon the narrator. Then Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator his decision. The narrator is dismissed from college.
The narrator’s first response is outrage and anger. This shocks and then amuses Dr. Bledsoe, who says the narrator is powerless. When it comes right down to it, the narrator does not really exist, because he does not matter. The college president tells the narrator about how a person gets power, and what it means to have it.
Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator that he will give him some letters to help him find work, and that the narrator has a short period of time to end his affairs.
The narrator leaves the office and vomits. He thinks about going back home, and the reactions he would face from those still there. He decides that Dr. Bledsoe’s decision was correct, and that he must accept his fate. He gets ready to leave.
Dr. Bledsoe is displeased to see the narrator the next morning, until the narrator says that he would like to get going and asks for the letters that Dr. Bledsoe had mentioned the night before. After collecting them, the narrator catches a bus.
The reader has long been anticipating the confrontation between the narrator and Dr. Bledsoe. It is very dramatic, but not highly surprising. The narrator was expecting to be expelled.
Ellison is very skilled at capturing the tension of this meeting. The narrator receives a lesson on how power involves deception. The reader is getting a similar lesson on the forces that made the narrator into the invisible man who introduced himself in the Prologue.
The narrator feels powerless in front of Dr. Bledsoe. He does not leave the office immediately, as he had been ready to do. Instead, he stays and listens, angry at himself for doing so, and filled with an agony of hate and confused fear.
One of the issues in this chapter is honesty. Dr. Bledsoe accuses the narrator of lying to him, and castigates the narrator for not lying to Mr. Norton. At the same time, Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator not to treat him like a white man, even while calling the narrator a “nigger.” This puts the narrator in a sort of double bind, for Dr. Bledsoe is exerting power over the narrator just as a white man would do, even while telling the narrator that he has pulled the race down into the mud.
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