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Why Are You Ranking: Most Stirring Ideas from the Novel 'Invisible Man' Listed from Pensive to Reflective ***(Spoilers Abound)***

Ralph Ellison wrote a monumental piece of literature with 'Invisible Man.' Though flawed, it stands as one of the greatest works by any writer. With scenes that make you think, the book brings together metaphor and symbolism to paint a portrait of mid twentieth century America.

By Skyler SaundersPublished 6 years ago 3 min read
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There is no such thing as black excellence. There is only excellence found in an individual who just might have a darker pigment than someone else. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) strikes some of the right chords as far as novels go. No, that’s an understatement. The novel is a marvelous piece of imagination and spirit. Each scene delves deeper into the marrow of race and racism in the United States of America. With stellar prose, Ellison weaves a tapestry of confusion, identity, collectivism, individuality, and surrender. Though seen as a work for advancing the ideals of Marxism, the book shows the disillusionment which follows when one joins tribalist gangs. Blackness is used as an extended metaphor throughout the work. It represents the narrator’s susceptibility, bewilderment, and sadly, a sort of sustained defeat. The talk today about privilege and excellence fails to show how there is only American exceptionalism. Mr. Ellison downplays the grandeur and glory of America and reduces the nation to a pressure cooker that blows its lid and illustrates whether the narrator can (or should) clean up the mess. Now, over half a century later, this novel still resonates for its poetic force and indelible substance and style, Ellison’s luminous tome outlining the aspects of what it means to (happen to) be black, gifted, and undercover. So, get your boxing gloves and pure white paint for, Why Are You Ranking: Most Stirring Ideas from the Novel 'Invisible Man' Listed from Pensive to Reflective.

The paint's all there.

Mix it the right way.

4. The Paint Scene’s Vicious Undertones

The irony of how a black substance (once mixed correctly) can make a paint whiter colors this passage in the novel. The narrator is censured by a co-worker for mixing the wrong paint type. Over the course of a few moments he is involved in an explosive fight with a union member.

This is where the entire concept of discerning what black is and what it represents. Things that are black are sullied, sooty, dingy, and dusky, amongst a host of other adjectives. But those are things. Black people are just individuals who possess higher levels of melanin. This distinction should have been present in Invisible Man but the brilliant novel falters on this front.

Rank: Musing

One of the Roots of All Evil

Marx: the man behind vice

3. The Run-in with the Brotherhood

Ellison rails against communism but not necessarily Marxism. He shows in the novel how the narrator becomes disillusioned with the Brotherhood, a collective that prizes the subjugation of the individual. Instead of rejecting and denouncing the evils of Marxism and therefore communism, Ellison just presents a picture of how a young man turns his back on an idea, not because it is atrocious and vicious but because it doesn’t live up to the original ideals of Marxism. At the final encounter with one of the characters, Ras, in full armor and riding a horse, confronts the narrator whose only option is to run. This exemplifies the flight from wrong thoughts but for the incorrect reasons.

Rank: Contemplative

Gloves Up

Every Man for Himself

2. The Psychic Scars of the Battle Royale

Once young black men are given boxing gloves and some demanded to stare at a naked, white blonde woman before being blindfolded, they are encouraged to fight amongst each other in a free-for-all. The fighters sense that crumpled bills and tokens line the floor but that it is charged and they get zapped for trying to grasp them. Afterward, the narrator finds out that the discs are worthless pieces of brass. This harms the narrator mentally as he must in the most literal way fight for his dignity.

Rank: Engrossed

You've got to get him on the underground.

Lights as a Last Resort

1. The Defeat of the Room Full of Lightbulbs

The book ends where it begins. As the narrator finds shelter underground, he also steals electricity from the fictional New York City power plant Monopolated Light & Power Company. The sight of over a thousand light bulbs and the sound of Louis Armstrong’s finest recordings gives the reader a final glimpse into the man who attempts to acquire an identity but fails. This idea brings about the notion that black men ought to live with reason and be individualistic and capitalistic. The narrator’s dilemma and ultimate downfall is his inability to seek out and discover a proper way of living life not as a black communist but as an indivisible human being.

Rank: Reflective

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About the Creator

Skyler Saunders

I’ve been writing since I was five-years-old. I didn’t have an audience until I was nine. If you enjoy my work feel free to like but also never hesitate to share. Thank you for your patronage. Take care.

S.S.

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