The narrator of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man characterizes reality this way because of the brutality that he has experienced as a young, black man living in a racially stratified America. Ellison’s description of the harsh realities of racial discrimination in America is especially compelling because it reinforces all the moments of violence and brutality that occur earlier in the novel. Indeed, the narrator’s life is punctuated by intense moments of racially motivated violence, and this is partly why he considers reality a forceful, blunt instrument:
“I'm an invisible man and it placed me in a hole-- or showed me the hole I was in, if you will-- and I reluctantly accepted the fact. What else could I have done? Once you get used to it, reality is as irresistible as a club, and I was clubbed into the cellar before I caught the hint. Perhaps that's the way that it had to be; I don't know” (572).
Ellison is saying that the present realities of being black in America are inescapable, and are every bit as harsh as being beaten with a club. The narrator begins the novel with a false sense of where he stands in society, and reality has effectively battered him back into his designated space; he cannot rise above this narrow reality, and he eventually accepts this.