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Ralph Waldo Ellison.  Born March 1 in Oklahoma City, OK  Parents were children of former slaves who themselves worked in service jobs  He said of his.

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Presentation on theme: "Ralph Waldo Ellison.  Born March 1 in Oklahoma City, OK  Parents were children of former slaves who themselves worked in service jobs  He said of his."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ralph Waldo Ellison

2  Born March 1 in Oklahoma City, OK  Parents were children of former slaves who themselves worked in service jobs  He said of his parents, “no matter what their lives had been, their children’s lives would be lives of opportunity.”

3  A mix up with a scholarship caused him to leave school and move to NY  He met Richard Wright, author of Native Son, who encouraged him to write  Helped him get a job with the Federal Writer’s Project in 1938  Wrote reviews for radical publications  Reviews often criticized the lack of a “conscious protagonist”  Broke with Wright

4  Began a second novel in case his first didn’t do well-never finished it  Published two books of essays  Taught at major universities including New York University, Rutgers and the University of Chicago

5  Was often criticized for not using his writing “as a propaganda tool to elevate the ‘black man in society’.” (writing.upenn.edu)  Is similar in style to others involved in the Harlem Renaissance  Is full of literary devices especially sound devices and anaphora to highlight his points (repetition of a word or words at the beginning of two or more successive verses, clauses, or sentences)

6  Ellison was influenced by the Russian novella Notes from the Underground, 1864  It is a “rambling memoir of a bitter isolated, unnamed narrator” (wikipedia)  The work was inspired by existentialist ideas-a philosophy dealing with the confusion of living in an apparently meaningless world  Kierkegaard, the father of existentialism, felt humans were responsible for giving life its meaning despite obstacles

7  Focus on the alienation of Blacks in a seemingly free society  Analyzes how race is used as power (white over black, black over black)  Style is not formal though the vocabulary is impressive; his use of sound devices and figurative language make the reading seem lyrical

8  Metaphors of blindness and invisibility  People don’t see him as he really is because of color  Others see him through a stereotype and this forces him to act in a stereotypical way  Through his invisibility, he can act without fear of the consequences

9  How can one person make a difference in society when the way to success and power are controlled by the those who are dishonest or two-faced?

10  The taboo of white/black romantic relationships  Blacks in power are often mistrusted as being associated with Whites  Stereotypical Black images  Conflicts between assimilationists and separatists

11  Ralph Ellison died on April 16, 1994 of pancreatic cancer  Until his death he continued “spreading and cultivating his vision of America and art: the conscious protagonist and the use of blackness to break categories instead of sustaining them” (writing.upenn.edu)

12  Old empty bed...springs hard as lead Feel like ol’ Ned...wished I was dead What did I do...to be so black and blue Even the mouse...ran from my house They laugh at you...and scorn you too What did I do...to be so black and blue I'm white...inside...but, that don't help my case ’cause I...can't hide...what is in my face (jazzman sounds) How would it end...ain't got a friend My only sin...is in my skin What did I do...to be so black and blue (instrumental break) How would it end...ain't got a friend My only sin...is in my skin What did I do...to be so black and blue 

13  How does the irony of his living/working situation fit into the theme of the novel?  Can fiction make equality possible? Does it? Give an example.  Why did Ellison have to make this protagonist different?  Explain his invisibility with the power company and the blond man.

14  Use the text to support your response to the following prompt: In a well-organized essay, describe the various attitudes that the narrator appears to have toward the tall, blond man. How are diction and syntax used to communicate these attitudes?


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