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We rely, in this world, on the visual aspects of humanity as a means of learning who we are. This, Ralph Ellison argues convincingly, is a dangerous habit. A classic from the moment it first appeared in 1952, Invisible Man chronicles the travels of its narrator, a young, nameless black man, as he moves through the hellish levels of American intolerance and cultural blindness. Searching for a context in which to know himself, he exists in a very peculiar state. "I am an invisible man," he says in his prologue. "When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me." But this is hard-won self-knowledge, earned over the course of many years.
As the book gets started, the narrator is expelled from his Southern Negro college for inadvertently showing a white trustee the reality of black life in the south, including an incestuous farmer and a rural whorehouse. The college director chastises him: "Why, the dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie! What kind of an education are you getting around here?" Mystified, the narrator moves north to New York City, where the truth, at least as he perceives it, is dealt another blow when he learns that his former headmaster's recommendation letters are, in fact, letters of condemnation.
What ensues is a search for what truth actually is, which proves to be supremely elusive. The narrator becomes a spokesman for a mixed-race band of social activists called "The Brotherhood" and believes he is fighting for equality. Once again, he realizes he's been duped into believing what he thought was the truth, when in fact it is only another variation. Of the Brothers, he eventually discerns: "They were blind, bat blind, moving only by the echoed sounds of their voices. And because they were blind they would destroy themselves.... Here I thought they accepted me because they felt that color made no difference, when in reality it made no difference because they didn't see either color or men."
Invisible Man is certainly a book about race in America, and sadly enough, few of the problems it chronicles have disappeared even now. But Ellison's first novel transcends such a narrow definition. It's also a book about the human race stumbling down the path to identity, challenged and successful to varying degrees. None of us can ever be sure of the truth beyond ourselves, and possibly not even there. The world is a tricky place, and no one knows this better than the invisible man, who leaves us with these chilling, provocative words: "And it is this which frightens me: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" --Melanie Rehak
These three volumes have been redesigned and reissued to commemorate the first anniversary of Ellison's death.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top 25 books i've ever read, i'm sure. Great narration, wonderful plot, amazing imagery. When the narrator got punched, my lip tasted iron. Read morePublished 13 days ago by ecophobic
This is an excellent book. The violence and sex content was minimum.Published 16 days ago by Constance Bryant
I just finished this book two days ago and I am still putting together in my head what I read. The story is complex and in the middle of it I realized full of ideas that are... Read morePublished 20 days ago by Joe Collector
I can see why this is considered one of the greatest books ever written, Its a difficult read but a enjoyable challenge.Published 27 days ago by Rodney Jones II
I was forced to read this book during an AP English class in high school. The book is filled with symbolism which is fine, but the author's writing just did not appeal to me. Read morePublished 1 month ago by ElegantFrost
I was required to read this book for summer reading, along with Du Bois's "The Souls of Black Folk", (I would highly recommend to read them together) and I approached it... Read morePublished 1 month ago by mrodriguez