Presentation on theme: "Made By: Roxana Bagheri, Swetha Ramamurthy, Kevin Markose, Nia Smallwood, Tannon Yu."— Presentation transcript:
Made By: Roxana Bagheri, Swetha Ramamurthy, Kevin Markose, Nia Smallwood, Tannon Yu
The prologue begins with the narrator introducing himself invisible. He explains that he is not literally invisible, but he is overlooked because he is black. He explains that there are both advantages and disadvantages to being invisible. The narrator tells a story about a night when he accidentally bumped into a white man, and the white man insulted him. He beats up the white man, and later sees the man on the news as a victim of a mugging. The narrator moves on to describe his living situation, saying that he has been living in the abandoned part of a basement that he calls his “hole”. In this hole, he has strung up lights and steals power from Monopolated Light & Power. He says that he used to pay for power, but since learning of his invisibility he has been living rent and bill free. The narrator keeps his hole full of light, because he believes it “confirms his reality”. The narrator wants to hear Louis Armstrong playing from five records at the same time. One day, while he was high on marijuana, the narrator was listening to music and imagined a white woman being sold as a slave, a black church congregation discussing blackness, and a slave woman that had sons with her master. She describes how she both hated and lover her master, and she eventually poisoned him. He asks her the meaning of freedom, and when she starts to cry her sons chase him out. After he comes down from his high, he decides that he isn't going to smoke anymore because it stops him from action.
The lights in the narrator’s hole symbolize his self awareness and his ability to create his own identity. “Perhaps you’ll think it strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light. But maybe it is exactly because I am invisible. Light gives form to my reality, gives birth to my form” (Ellison 6). Both the slave woman from his daydream and the white man that the narrator assaults symbolize the complex relationships between Blacks and Whites during this time period. The slave woman both loves and hates her master, and the narrator questions his ability to be responsible for attacking the white man because society does not acknowledge him as a person.
The chapter opens with the narrator reminiscing about his grandfather’s dying words. He remembers how his grandfather ambiguously reminded him to “agree ‘em to death and destruction,” making himself appear to go along with others, while having ulterior motives (Ellison 21). Chapter 1 also contains the famous “battle royal” scene, a controversial depiction of white cruelty and black ignorance. Expecting to deliver a speech to a group of distinguished white men, the narrator finds himself blindfolded and thrown into a vicious fight against other blindfolded black boys. After being defeated in the last round, the narrator and the other boys are lead to an electrified rug, on which fake crumpled bills and coins lie, and told to go after the money. Finally being allowed to conduct his speech, the men repeatedly humiliate the narrator while he is speaking. After being forced to repeat “social responsibility” several times, he slips and says “social equality” instead, inciting a heated response from his audience. Explaining that he made a slip of the tongue, he is given a scholarship to a prestigious black college after concluding his speech. He later dreams that the scholarship document actually reads “To Whom It May Concern, Keep This Nigger-Boy Running” (Ellison 33).
The battle royal scene is a significant symbol of white superiority and is clear satire. Setting the scene for the series of events to follow, the battle royal shows the absolute power the White men have, in regards to what the black boys do or feel. However, Ellison most likely did not publish the scene for just something so obvious. The battle royal can be contended to be somewhat humorous, in regards to complete imbecility and ignorance of the black boys. Not only does the scene exemplify the time period’s educational and logical standards of the black community, it portrays such ignorance ridiculously. The boys show absolutely no hesitation in doing what the men ask, until after they experience the consequences (ie. getting electrocuted by the rug). The narrator on the other hand, personifies Ellison’s belief that underneath all the ignorance, blacks can also have an immense sense of better judgment. Although he is forced to in the end, the narrator differs from the other boys in that he hesitates before being pushed into the ring, and he becomes more careful when picking at the coins after being shocked once.
“And we snatched and grabbed, snatched and grabbed. I was careful not to come too close to the rug now…” (Ellison 28). While the other boys continue lunging for the coins and bills, even after being electrocuted more than once, the narrator carefully picks his way around the rug to avoid being shocked again. “’You sure that about ‘equality’ was a mistake?’ ‘Oh, yes, sir’” (Ellison 31). The scene where the narrator slips up in his speech portrays an obvious theme Ellison is trying to portray. That people (in this case, the white men) are often two-faced. While the men appear to be beneficial to the narrator, as seen when they award him the scholarship later, it becomes clear that they quickly become hostile when he falls out of line. In broader terms, the men are generally nicer to the narrator when he acts like (in their view) a model black citizen; however, when he seems to challenge their authority as powerful white figures, they turn on him.
The narrator describes his college as a year progressed in detail, reminiscing about the different parts of campus that he felt were home. He particularly recalls a bronze statue of the Founder with “his hands outstretched in the breathtaking gesture of lifting a veil.” The narrator then laments that he can only remember images of the school with a broken fountain and dead grass. At the end of the narrator’s junior year, the president Dr. Bledsoe gives him the job of driving Mr. Norton, one of the trustees, around the school. Mr. Norton tells him of the Founder and wishes him a pleasant fate, which puzzles him. He sees a team of oxen on the road and fears the white man with the oxen, but respects and admires the rich white men like Norton. Norton tells the narrator that he felt as if his destiny was connected to the Black people, students like the narrator created is fate, and he regrets that he did not prevent the death of his daughter. As they drive on, the narrator accidently drives by Jim Trueblood’s log cabin, which peaks Mr. Norton’s interest. When they stop in front of the cabin, the narrator tells Mr. Norton that the father, Jim, impregnated both his wife and his daughter. Norton then becomes very excited while talking to Trueblood and tells them the story of how he had a dream which led him to have intercourse with his daughter. Both his wife and daughter had their babies at the same time. This led to the disgrace of their family and hatred from school who looked down upon the Black peasants already. This shocks Mr. Norton, who gives him a $100 bill. He then is so disgusted that he becomes unwell forcing the narrator to take Mr. Norton to the Golden Day, for whiskey to treat him. You did whaaaat??
The former Slave Quarters being used represent the fact that the consequences of slavery have yet to die out completely. The author demonstrates that although slavery was abolished some time ago it still survives in one way or another. Bronze founder statue: The statue represents the struggle of Black people against white supremacy and racism within their own race. The Founder is made to look like he is uncovering the slaves but in reality is pushing them back down by keeping them blind. This foreshadows the continued betrayal the narrator experiences from his own people. There is also a reference to the motif of blindness, with the blind eyes of the statue. “I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place” (36). Mr. Norton: symbol of the self-interested White race who manipulates dependent Black people by creating the illusion of empowering them, but actually amasses more power (the narrator’s fate is Mr. Norton’s) Trueblood and the $100 bill: The money and the help that men are giving him represent the corruption of society. Trueblood, although a poor sharecropper that “shames” Blacks according to the young narrator, is able to capitalize on the sad fact that men treat his story as entertainment.
The narrator, fearing that Norton might die from shock, drives to the nearest tavern, the Golden day to get Norton whiskey. As he approaches the Golden Day, the narrator encounters a group of mentally disturbed black war veterans who are being allowed an afternoon outside their home. Their attendant is nowhere to be seen. The narrator intends to dash in and out of the tavern, as the establishment has a bad reputation, but the owner refuses to sell take-out whiskey. Some of the veterans help carry Norton inside, since he has fallen unconscious. As they soon as they pour some whiskey down his throat, he begins to regain consciousness. The attendant, Supercargo, in charge of the veterans suddenly appears, shouting down from the area of the building devoted to the brothel. He asks why the veterans are yelling and then the veterans start tackling the attendant. A brawl ensues. Norton falls unconscious again, and the narrator and one of the veterans carry him upstairs to where the prostitutes stay. This particular veteran claims to be a doctor and a graduate of the college. After Norton wakes, the veteran mocks Norton’s interest in the narrator and the college. He says that Norton views the narrator as a mark on his scorecard of achievement rather than as a man and that the narrator thinks of Norton not as a man but as a god. He calls the narrator an automaton stricken with a blindness that makes him do Norton’s bidding and claims that this blindness is the narrator’s chief asset. Norton becomes angry and demands that the narrator take him back to the college. During the ride back, Norton remains completely silent.
Norton’s teeth are characterized as “amazingly animalized teeth,” attributing an animalistic quality to Norton, even though usually Blacks were considered as non-human. Normally, his teeth are hidden behind his mouth, but during this state of vulnerability he shows his true colors. He is self-interested, and has no real intention to improve the difficulties of Black Americans. Norton hides behind his words, portraying that he is a kind white man but in reality uses his position to control human life. When the veteran (doctor dude) at the Golden Day tavern calls the narrator an “automaton,” the comment revives the problematic relationship between white benefactor and black beneficiary. The veteran clearly identifies Norton’s narcissism by stating that Norton sees the narrator as a mark on the scorecard of his achievement. This also refers to the blind or mechanical following of both the narrator and Mr. Norton of the ideals forced upon them by the Founder. “Poor stumblers,” he says, “neither of you can see the other....” But neither Norton nor the narrator takes kindly to having his figurative blindfold removed: just as Norton wishes to believe himself an influential humanitarian, so does the narrator wish to continue under the illusion that the college offers him the freedom to determine his own fate and identity. This scene was also very ironic because even though the veteran emerges as the only character to recognize and speak the truth, society labels him as insane for actually being able to see beneath the surface and for telling what he has seen and learned.
Mr. Norton asks to be taken to his room and requests a personal visit from Dr. Bledsoe, the president of the college. Bledsoe becomes furious when the narrator informs him of the afternoon’s events, scolding him that he should have known to show powerful white trustees only what the college wants them to see. When Bledsoe arrives at Norton’s room, he orders the narrator to leave and instructs him to attend the chapel service that evening. In his room later that afternoon, the narrator receives a message that Bledsoe wants to speak with him in Norton’s room. He arrives to find only Mr. Norton, however, who informs him that Bledsoe had to leave suddenly but that the narrator can find him in his office after the evening service. Norton says that he explained to Bledsoe that the narrator was not responsible for what happened and adds that he thinks that Bledsoe understands.
“Now even the rows of neat dormitories seemed to threaten me, the rolling lawns appearing as hostile as the gray highway with its white dividing line” (Ellison,99). The narrator never dares to cross the white dividing lines on the highway, which represents the control of the white people in the narrator’s life. He strictly adheres to this line without question or suspicion. The car is another symbolic element, symbolizing power. Although the narrator is driving, he is not in control and the car he is driving is not his own. The only power the narrator has is that which Mr. Norton grants him. In reality, Norton is in control and the narrator is being driven to fulfill the desires of Norton. This reoccurs throughout the novel as he is under the illusion that he is driving his own life, but in reality someone is dictating his fate. The narrator asks, "Will you need me this evening, sir?" and Norton responds, "No, I won't be needing the machine.” References to machinery is evident in this conversation, which was first mentioned in Chapter 3. Mechanics symbolizes the way Blacks were presented as inhuman and simply a means to an end. They were looked down upon as uneducated and incapable of making their own decisions and contributing to society, a racial stigma that followed the narrator throughout the novel.