Peter's Reviews > Invisible Man

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
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really liked it
bookshelves: literary, african-american-writers

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Invisible Man is a sprawling narrative that follows an unnamed character, also the narrator, through the younger part of his life. It kept me gripped to the page and wondering, what next, through much of it. As coming-of-age novels go, it's protagonist goes through more change than most books I've read in this genre. In a short period, his early twenties, the lead character plots his way through the valleys and hills of both rural and urban life in 1950s America. In this regard, sweeping seems to be an appropriate adjective to describe the novel. Moreover, it is sweeping without losing tension--no small feat.

Ellison's narrative composition and prose style are also innovative, especially for the time--1952. He switches tense, appears to move back and forth from omniscient to closely held third person point of view and even changes tense for the prolog and epilog. The cadence of his prose is sometimes soft and eloquent, other times hard and cutting, then also takes on an oratory tone.

The story leaves us with a keen knowledge of the personality and changes undergone by the main character and also leads us on a tour of several different spheres of 1950s society and culture.

However, none of the secondary characters exists for the full span of the novel. I felt this left me unrequited in my desire to see how the changes undergone by the protagonist might look juxtaposed against characters from earlier parts of the novel. I found myself asking, how would the protagonist respond to his college leader now that he'd changed? What would he say to this man or woman?

Secondary characters often serve two purposes: first to drive change in the main character and second to measure the change in a primary character. When they come into the novel, drive change, and then leave, we are not able to measure the character's growth against them. I found this to be the main thing I missed in the unique structure of Invisible Man versus other more traditional coming-of-age novels.
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Reading Progress

October 11, 2016 – Shelved
October 11, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 30, 2017 – Started Reading
March 30, 2017 – Shelved as: literary
March 30, 2017 – Shelved as: african-american-writers
April 3, 2017 –
April 3, 2017 –
April 6, 2017 –
April 14, 2017 –
April 20, 2017 –
April 22, 2017 –
April 22, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Ned (new) - added it

Ned Excellent review, makes me want to move it up.

Peter Thanks Ned.

Morgan This book never won the Pulitzer Prize. It won the National Book Award.

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