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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
An important book, just not a very good one. Slow. Tedious. A slog to get through. Just meh.Published 8 days ago by Bud
What makes this so effective, I think, is that Ellison basically goes after everyone, black or white. Read morePublished 11 days ago by jafrank
Classic. Inspirational autobiography... This book also inspired me to write my life story.Published 12 days ago by C. A. Henderson
This a classic American novel that deals with race relations. Ellison reminds us that, as a white person, we have absolutely no way of understand what it means to be black in our... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Patrick D. O'Rourke
I missed this book years ago. Now I'm glad that I read it after James Joyce's Ulysses. It's so complex in its metaphors, its symbols..... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Sarah Hayman
If you have a problem with this book, it's not Ellison's fault. It definitely conveys the sense of having been written in early 20th century America with a somewhat spare style,... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Bradley W. Bleck
Classic book worth five stars; it pairs well with studies into "The Odyssey" and/or African American literature. Read morePublished 1 month ago by AricL