This is a famous novel by Ralph Ellison. This novel was written between 1945 and 1952. This is not a science fiction novel, instead, it is a post-war fiction and modernist novel. This is the strongest work of Ralph Ellison and is very important for NET aspirants.
The setting of this play is in New York and an unnamed university in the South. The novel has been written from the first-person’s point of view.
The narrator of this story doesn’t reveal his name throughout the novel. He is telling us that he is an invisible man. By this, he doesn’t mean that he is literally an invisible person, instead, he wants to explain how people have been ignoring this person and his life in the past. Thus, he is invisible in the eyes of others.
The Invisible Man Summary Ralph Ellison
The narrator of this novel lives in an underground place where there are thousands of light bulbs and the place is covered with wires all over. Electricity is stolen here and he is listening to Louis Armstrong on his gramophone. While listening to him, he is reminded of his past.
During his teenage days, he graduated from high school. He had always been good at giving speeches, so at the time of his graduation, he was asked to give a speech in front of some white men. They also talked about giving him a scholarship briefcase through which he could go to the black college of that state.
But before giving that briefcase, the white men told the narrator that he will have to fight a boxing match first with other black men. They did this for their entertainment. He fought the battle royal after which he was covered with blood and he gave a speech and took his briefcase.
Then he got enrolled in the black college of that state where he used to drive the car of its trustee, Mr. Norton, who was a white man who used to give trust to the black college. While driving his car, one day, he took Mr. Norton to a campus. He stopped the car on Mr. Norton’s order and then he went to meet a man named Jim Trueblood and started chatting with him.
Jim Trueblood was the man who impregnated his daughter. After meeting him, Mr. Norton was quite infuriated and he asked the narrator to take him to a better place.
Then the narrator takes him to a place named Golden Day, which was a bar for black people where there were a lot of prostitutes, and near the bar, there was also a mental hospital. When they too reached the bar, a lot of mental patients also arrived there and Mr. Norton got injured.
He takes Mr. Norton back to the campus. The president of the college was Dr. Bledsoe who started scolding the narrator as Mr. Norton was an important person. President Bledsoe threatens the narrator and then sends him to New York. He gives some letters to the narrator and says that these are some recommendations that will immediately get him a job in New York.
The next day, the narrator leaves for New York. On the bus, he meets a man named X Doctor, whom he had already met before. He gives the narrator a piece of advice for his life but the narrator doesn’t understand anything.
Then the narrator reaches New York. There was a place named Harlem where there was a black community. The narrator was excited to live there and so he went there. But, he didn’t get any job with the letters of his college’s president Dr. Bledsoe.
He showed the letter to a man named Emerson, and Emerson tells the narrator that his college president didn’t have any intention to help him, he just gave him a false home to send him to New York.
The narrator gets sad and is about to live, but Emerson tells him that he can get a job in Liberty Pants where he gets the job as an assistant under an old black man named Luscious Brockway.
But, Luscious Brockway was an eccentric paranoid person who began to doubt the narrator that he will snatch his job. Due to this doubt, he attacked the narrator and the narrator got injured.
Then, the narrator is taken to the hospital of the same factory and is given electric shocks without any need for a treat by the factory doctors. For once, due to those electric shocks, the narrator even forgot his name. He only remembered that these doctors were doing wrong to him.
So, due to the racist behavior of the doctors, the narrator attacked them. As a result, he was discharged from the hospital as well as fired from the factory job.
The narrator again goes to Harlem and was very weak by now. He falls. A lady named Mary Rambo knew him and she helped him. She kept him to herself and the narrator started living with that old woman on rent.
Mary Rambo was a good woman and helped the narrator a lot. The narrator kept practicing his speech ability. One day he saw that an old black couple was thrown out of their apartment. To help them, the narrator gathered people with his speaking skills.
People gathered and started listening to him. The public was also getting disturbed.
A man named Brother Jack who had fled from jail saw the narrator while giving the speech and how the public was closely listening to him. Jack started following the narrator9 and offered him a job to write a speech for his organization named The Brotherhood.
(One eye of brother Jack was made of glass)
In the beginning, the narrator was thinking of rejecting Jack’s offer, but then Jack convinced him so he accepted the offer. Then the narrator goes to the headquarters of their organization The Brotherhood where he got a new name. And he also left the lady Mary Rambo who had helped him.
For the first time, he gave a speech for this organization and the people hugged him like he was a hero after listening to his speech.
Then, he met a man named Brother Hambro and after four months, he was told that he was the chief spokesman of their organization. He was now an important part of the organization.
Then, he meets a man named Tod Clifton who was a very intelligent and skillful person in this organization. The two, narrator and Tod Clifton together were fighting against Ras The Exhorter, a black nationalist, who used to believe that black people should not work together with white people. He believed that The Brotherhood is working together with the whites.
As the narrator was gradually getting fame as a good speaker, suddenly he started getting threats because a lot of people in his organization were not happy with him. After all, he was growing day by day.
A man Westren told him that he was using the organization for his benefit. Due to this, the committee suspended the narrator for some time, and was sent downtown.
He spent some time there and then he was called back to the organization for an emergency meeting as Tod Clifton was missing. After a long time, he went back to Harlem and realized that things had changed a lot.
The Brotherhood organization was not as popular as before. Then he sees that Tod Clifton was selling sambo dolls in the streets. He had left the organization of his own will. The narrator was about to ask him why he betrayed the organization but the policemen shot Clifton.
The narrator held a public funeral of Tod Clifton and gave a speech to the public and after hearing that, the public again started taking his side. The black people of Harlem were filled with energy. It seemed as if the narrator would again make the organization popular.
But, he was again called to the party committee of the organization, but he was given punishment for going against their orders.
The narrator understood that this organization didn’t want the welfare of black people. Instead, the organization only hears what it wants to. He leaves, and while leaving, the men of Raz The Exhorter beat him badly.
Then, the narrator bought a pair of dark lens glasses and started roaming around the city. No one recognized him.
From a girl named Sybil, he gets to know that the organization is going to hold riots in the city. The narrator went to the highest place of the city where he saw that people were gathering, and riots were about to begin. He went to Ras The Exhorter, where he sent his men after the narrator to kill him.
The narrator, while trying to escape, met three white men, who asked him what was there in his briefcase. To escape from these white men, the narrator turned to run and fell into a manhole.
As soon as he fell there, the white men sealed the manhole from there. Since then, the narrator is there, underground, and while being there, he has burnt all his past. And at the end of the novel, the narrator thinks that now is the time that he returns to the world because he has already spent a lot of time underground.
With this, the story ends.
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