cecily's Reviews > Invisible Man

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
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Sep 15, 12


The first sentence in the novel: "I am an invisible man."
The Last sentence in the novel: "Being invisible and without substance, a disembodied voice, as it were, what else could I do? What else but try to tell you what was really happening when your eyes were looking through? And it is this which frightens me: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?"
First I want to say that I DON'T CARE if the characters are fighting stereotypes with stereotypes or if all of them are archetypes. I don't care that there are exaggerations in this book. I feel that what Ralph Ellison said in the introduction of Invisible Man is something you have to keep in mind while you read Invisible man. This is what he said,
"Here it would seem that the interests of art and democracy converge, the development of conscious, articulate citizens being indispensable…
By way of imposing meaning upon our disparate American experience the novelist seeks to create forms in which acts, scenes and characters speak for more than their immediate selves, and in this enterprise the very nature of language is on his side. For by a trick of fate (and our racial problems notwithstanding) the human imagination is integrative-and the same is true of the centrifugal force than inspires the democratic process.
And while fiction is but a form of symbolic action, a mere game of “as if,” therein lies its true function and its potential for effecting change.
So if the ideal of achieving a true political equality eludes us in reality-as it continues to do-there is still available that fictional vision of an ideal democracy in which the actual combines with the ideal and gives us representations of a state of things in which the highly placed and the lowly, the black and the white, the northerner and the southerner, the native-born and the immigrant are combined to tell us of transcendent truths and possibilities such as those discovered when Mark Twain set Huck and Jim afloat on the raft.
Which suggested to me that a novel could be fashioned as a raft of hope, perception and entertainment that might help keep us afloat as we tried to negotiate the snags and whirlpools that mark our nation’s vacillating course toward and away from the democratic ideal."
So I interpret this to mean that he wasn't concerned so much with whether many of his characters were stereotypical and flat he was concerned about the "transcendent truths and possibilities" and whether or not his fiction was "a form of symbolic action" and if it had " potential for effecting change."

Having said that,the novel Invisible Man is seriously one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is written as if it was a music composition itself. One that is angry and disturbing and sad and regretful at the same time! It is as if the book is the feelings of the problems that faced many African Americans intellectually and socially. I don't know if that even makes any sense. I just know that I remember when I was reading the book and being caught up by his words and their rhythm there was no doubt in my mind that I had to share this book with others. That it was an important piece of literature that took my breath away. This is an example of how his words are like music in their rhythm: "...Ha! singing achievement,Ha! booming success,intoning,Ha! acceptance,Ha! a river of word-sounds filled with drowned passions,floating, Ha! with wreck of unachievable ambitions and stillborn revolts, sweeping their ears,Ha! ranged stiff before me, necks stretched forward with listening ears,Ha! a-spraying the ceiling and a-drumming the dark-stained after rafter, the seasoned crossarm of torturous timber mellowed in the kiln of a thousand voices; Playing Ha! as upon a xylophone..." That isn't even the best example I could find from the book. I once read somewhere someone's description of the novel Invisible man and I thought it accurate, it was "It is alive. It is a panther crouching and springing into the heart."
And when you read something like the following how can you not think it to be beautiful?
"as though even here in the filtering dusk, here beneath the deep indigo sky, here, alive with looping swifts and darting moths, here in the hereness of the night not yet lighted by the moon that looms blood-red behind the chapel like a fallen sun, its radiance shedding not upon the here-dusk of twittering bats, nor on the there-night of cricket and whippoorwill, but focused short-rayed upon our place of convergence; and we drifting forward with rigid motions, limbs stiff and voices now silent, as though on exhibit even in the dark, and the moon a white man's bloodshot eye."
Honestly I feel like my review was very choppy and confusing and all over the place. I think the review turned out that way because there is so much that I want to say and mention when talking about Invisible Man, but I know that if I was to write down everything that I had to say about this novel It would end up to be pages and pages long. Most books that I never want to stop talking about, or that I can ramble on for hours and hours about are books that I think are worth all the time I spend thinking, writing, or talking about. This is a book (in my opinion) that is worth time spent being absorbed in it. It is fantastic. Anyone that appreciates literature and likes to get lost in thought now and again, if you give this book enough time to be truly read and thought about then you will be satisfied with this book. Well at least I think so. I mean you might not agree with some of the ideas in the book but broadening horizons and all that junk right? I totally recommend this book.
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