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Invisible Man
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We rely, in this world, on the visual aspects of humanity as a means of learning who we are. This, Ralph Ellison argues convincingly, is a dangerous habit. A classic from the moment it first appeared in 1952, Invisible Man chronicles the travels of its narrator, a young, nameless black man, as he moves through the hellish levels of American intolerance and cultural blindness. Searching for a context in which to know himself, he exists in a very peculiar state. "I am an invisible man," he says in his prologue. "When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me." But this is hard-won self-knowledge, earned over the course of many years.

As the book gets started, the narrator is expelled from his Southern Negro college for inadvertently showing a white trustee the reality of black life in the south, including an incestuous farmer and a rural whorehouse. The college director chastises him: "Why, the dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie! What kind of an education are you getting around here?" Mystified, the narrator moves north to New York City, where the truth, at least as he perceives it, is dealt another blow when he learns that his former headmaster's recommendation letters are, in fact, letters of condemnation.

What ensues is a search for what truth actually is, which proves to be supremely elusive. The narrator becomes a spokesman for a mixed-race band of social activists called "The Brotherhood" and believes he is fighting for equality. Once again, he realizes he's been duped into believing what he thought was the truth, when in fact it is only another variation. Of the Brothers, he eventually discerns: "They were blind, bat blind, moving only by the echoed sounds of their voices. And because they were blind they would destroy themselves.... Here I thought they accepted me because they felt that color made no difference, when in reality it made no difference because they didn't see either color or men."

Invisible Man is certainly a book about race in America, and sadly enough, few of the problems it chronicles have disappeared even now. But Ellison's first novel transcends such a narrow definition. It's also a book about the human race stumbling down the path to identity, challenged and successful to varying degrees. None of us can ever be sure of the truth beyond ourselves, and possibly not even there. The world is a tricky place, and no one knows this better than the invisible man, who leaves us with these chilling, provocative words: "And it is this which frightens me: Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" --Melanie Rehak

Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.

Customer Reviews:

  • Brilliant, perfect novel
    There are few novels that so effectively evoke what it means to be American - and what it means to be human. This novel is beautifully written, and what's more, it has so much meaning and wisdom to share with all of us. Race relations in America are far from O.K., and this book, though fifty years old, retains all of its potency. The epilogue of this novel is probably my favorite few pages of writing of any book or essay ever written.

    Behind the story of this black-man-who-is-not-seen is the story of each of us when we are not seen for who we are, and behind that story is a powerful argument for better communication and understanding of each other and of the amalgam of cultures and ethnicities that makes up this nation. Read this book....more info
  • Nothing happens
    It is possible to rephrase "The determinant causal factors underlying the euphonious vocalizations of immured avifauna lies within the scope of my personal reasoning" as "I know why the caged bird sings."

    Ralph Ellison does not seem to realize this. He insists on using the most convoluted language and the longest sentences (one stretched almost half a page!) he can. Not only does this style fill up pages and make the book a pain to read, but it also destroys any messages Ellison is trying to convey.

    Simply in terms of the story, this book had a pretty good one until the end, when all manner of utterly confusing events take stage. In fact, whenever things were actually happening in this book, it was pretty good.

    Unfortunately, things really don't happen. The narrator delves into 20 pages of contradictory and esoteric "self-reflection" after every 2 pages of action. I suppose this is meant to show the narrator's evolution, but as Ellison has an inexplicable urge to ramble as much as possible, it does little more than confuse and bore the reader.

    So in Ellisonian sum: This book turns time into a daschund, turning seconds to minutes and minutes to hours and hours to days, changing infant months into withering old years, causing leaves on spring trees to fall prematurely in a flurry of brown wrinkled death that preserves the life of trees; yea--to read this book requires the strength of a stallion, the perseverance of a mule, the courage of a lion, for it will devour days like a three-week starved tiger on a deer, cause the waves of sleep to rise to a serene tsunami drowning all in its wake, drive the bowels of ennui to churn; nay--this book will destroy life itself, snatch the rosy infants from wombs of expectant mothers, shoot the stork before it reaches home; woe to the one who reads it!

    Or, in normal people speak: This book is long and boring. Don't read it....more info
  • Required Reading for Urban Psychology
    This along with the Autobiography of Malcolm X are the two most powerful portrayals of East Coast urban psychology between the castigated and demoralized black man and the white insitutionalized power-holders circa 1930-1950. While both end in tragedy, this one perhaps is more demoralizing as the protagonist eventually becomes completely alienated from his neighborhood, city, and nation at large. Becomming the victim of a witch-hunt and unraveling of the moral fabric of his neighborhood, the protoganist doesn't achieve freedom or enlightenment, but instead whithers away in despair. Very upsetting and scary portrayal of the effects of marginalized politics and socio-economic/racial polarization....more info
  • Mirrored Man
    "The invisible man times three/black, down and out, standing on the corner, no doubt," Public Enemy's Chuck D rapped in the much-overlooked 1999 song "I." Besides being a great piece of social observation in its own right, this song pays tribute to the greatest work of one of the masters of social observation, Ralph Ellison.

    Simply put, "Invisible Man" is a titanic work of literature, and a must-read for any thinking American.

    I say that without qualifiers; too often, people describe "Invisible Man" as a great piece of African-American literature, or as a great piece of black literature, depending on their personal level of political correctness and/or idiocy. But to say such things is to diminish this book, to suggest that, though it is a well-crafted and powerful piece of social satire, it is somehow still not on the same plane as books by great white (or should I say European-American?) authors like Faulkner and Hemingway.

    Perhaps the best author with whom to compare Ellison is Franz Kafka. The journey of Ellison's unnamed narrator/protagonist from rural South to urban North, from a land of overt racism to one of more covert prejudice, is fraught not only with peril but with comic misadventure; its existential angst echoes "The Trial" and Josef K.'s odyssey through the terrifying but darkly comedic layers of of an inscrutable bureacracy that seeks, for no apparent reason, to do him harm. (The word "protagonist" scarcely applies to either character; both men are corks borne upon the sea, conscious of, and understanding of, but unable to control, their fates.)

    But Ellison's book isn't simply "The Trial" with a change of venue. No, it is a far more realistic and convincing story, told with greater detail and sharper observations. In the early pages of the book, Ellison's narrator describes in chilling detail a "battle royal" down South, an event in which black men were blindfolded, put in a boxing ring, and forced to flail widly at each other until there was only one man standing, all for the amusement of a watching crowd of whites. Like all great art, the chapter leaves an indelible impression on one's mind, hitting not with the glancing blow of a sightless pawn, but with the sharp-eyed accuracy of a champion's right cross.

    Importantly, Ellison pulls no punches when depicting Southern black culture in subsequent chapters. Had he framed the book in simple us/them, black/white, good/bad dichotomies, he might have written a good racial polemic, but it would not have been great literature. Instead Ellison and his narrator dare to show the seedy underbelly of rural black life; tasked with escorting a visiting white university trustee, his narrator takes the man off the idyllic campus, first to a shack where a black sharecropper farmer has impregnated his own daughter, and then to a bordello. This infuriates the school's president, who tells the narrator that "the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie!" As an exposition of the character of the school president, this line is great; as social satire, it is even better, a double-barrel shotgun blast devasatating both to those whites who want to hear only lies and to those blacks who want to tell them. But Ellison, in contrast to many of his characters, seeks and tells truths.

    Perhaps the book's greatest strength is its descriptions of urban America. Upon arriving in Harlem, the narrator encounters "college boys working to return to school down South; older advocates of racial progress with utopian schemes for building black business empires; preachers ordained by no authority except their own, without bread or wine, body or blood; the community 'leaders' without followers..." It is an arresting sketch of black urban life, with elements that are as true today as they were fifty years ago; it is a depiction made more powerful by its economy and its brevity.

    Unfortunately, the book elsewhere lacks those virtues. Ellison can be too long-winded; while reading it, I picked up this book frequently and eagerly, but I also put it down frequently. Also, his commentaries on religion seem sharply drawn but skewed, for they don't acknowledge the role Christian churches and charities play in seeing and helping those people whom society deems invisible.

    Still, the length of the journey and the occasional bumps in the road shouldn't dissuade the determined reader, for this is a trip well worth taking. In his search for himself and his identity, the narrator proves to be not invisible but mirrored. For in his story, he reflects back on us our own journey, shows us the evolution people of all colors and shades and opacities must make as we determine both who society thinks we are, and who we really are. ...more info
  • An Incredible Novel
    When people ask me what my favorite novel is, I always say Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. I have read many novels in college, but none have ever been as emotionally and psychologically resonating as this book. I can understand why this novel is part of the African-American literary canon. It is a perfect example of a bildungsroman novel, since it shows the evolution of the main character while also shrouding him in secrecy. Even if some of the characters are meant to function one-dimensionally (i.e. Mr. Norton), they still have so much complexity that they feel like real people. Do not be intimidated by the book length. It is so engrossing that you will not want to put the book down. ...more info
  • The Greatest
    Ellison is the Muhammad Ali, the colossus of fiction - I have never experienced a work of art in ANY medium as rich, provocative and poignant as "Invisible Man." Bar none, be it painting, sculpture, theater, film, poetry... One of the best, most succinct ways I can think of relaying the impact of IM is the way we speak on the street, by saying: That's deep.

    Most of the "reviews" I've read here simply recount the many plot situations and/or entirely lack the depth to "get" what Ellison is doing as an artist and human being. For if nothing else, Ellison's work is unique in this respect: it reverberates on SO many levels to so many different kinds of people...

    Athletes have a way of talking about when they can do no wrong, when every shot goes in the basket, or the baseball looks as big as a watermelon - They say that they're "in the zone." THAT's what IM is.

    It's THE American story by an artist at the height of his powers, in the zone......more info

  • deeply philosophical, and wonderful motifs and imagery
    Extremely tightly woven story about conformity in our society in the name of race relationships and ideology. Great food for thoughts....more info
  • Just what the teacher asked for.
    This book is just what was required for my Liberal Studies Course. I came as promised. Good Condition and in my opinion like new. ...more info
  • Lengthy Novel is a Surprising Delight
    I must confess. I was more than a little disappointed when I discovered the copy of The Invisible Man on my 11th grade reading list was authored by Ralph Ellison not H.G. Wells. Once I stopped complaining about the extra four hundred pages and started reading the book however I found it an intriguing complex work that not only supplemented my Advanced Placement United States History class work on civil rights but also interested me.

    Ellison wove this highly descriptive story in the style of existentialism, mostly used by French authors of the twentieth century, as a way of questioning meaning of individual life in an entirely meaningless world. Ellison related this to racial issues between African Americans and whites. Ralph Ellison opens with the words, "I am an invisible man," then goes on to explain he is not a fictional creature of Poe's works or a Hollywood movie trick, but a living breathing human being that no one sees due to his skin tone. A highly emotional work, The Invisible Man reaches into the heart of the readers and cries for attention to be paid to the issues of race. Although this is not the 1800s in the core of racial discrimination, lynchings, and hate crimes, Diversity of race and the struggles of racial issues shaped America into the country we are today. Challenging thoughts on individuality and drawing attention to the heart of the problem with racial disturbances, The Invisible Man is a classic work that although quite lengthy has a solid heart of excellent plot development, descriptive writing, strong emotions and challenging themes....more info

  • Why am i reading this?
    Throughout reading this book I found myself questioned with "Why and I reading this". Although very well written, I felt that it took the author 3 pages to say something that could have been said in a half of a page. When I first picked this book to read, I thought that it would be about an African American man and his struggles in slavery, not some agitator who ultimately gives up on everything he worked toward to become and invisible man in society that lives in solitude. What kind of message is this book sending out? Is it to give up on your dreams, hopes, and aspirations? That is ultimately what I got out of the book. After reading this book I became unsure of whether or not I actually understood it's meaning. Maybe this was why I found a strong dislike for the book. Some parts in this book struck me as rather odd. The scene in the beginning of the book is what I found most peculiar. This is where the narrator is young and is asked to deliver his speech, made at his graduation, to a group of important white men in his community. When the narrator arrives he is forced to watch a naked woman dance and is then given clothes, which to his dismay are for the purpose of fighting blindfolded in a portable boxing ring with other young black kids. After brutally being attacked many times by other kids, he is left alone in the ring with a much bigger black boy and is forced to fight him. The other boy wins and after their match, the boys are "paid" with coins and a few bills that are placed on and electrified mat which purpose is to embarrass the boys even further in front of the white gentlemen. Only after all of this torture is he instructed to give his speech, which only a few of the drunken gentlemen listened to. I myself could have done without this scene. I saw no relevance or purpose to it being in the book other than to inform the readers that he is a gifted public speaker with much to say, which was established many pages before this inappropriate scene. A few other scenes such as when we (the readers) find out about Jim Trueblood and how he impregnated his daughter, the accident and the Liberty Paints plant where the narrator ends up at the hospital and the doctors are unsure of what to do, and the seduction by a white women's rights activist whose husband didn't notice some black man sleeping with his wife made me stop reading and say to myself, "what the heck!?" I did not understand why scenes such as the ones mentioned above were written.I feel that one word that would best describe this book in my opinion is pointless. Maybe I just couldn't grasp the true meaning of this book, or maybe it really was terrible. I will never know, but I do know that I enjoyed this book the least out of all the books I ever read....more info
  • As enthralling as it is provocative
    Ralph Ellison, for starters, exhibits a masterful command of the English language and all of its literary power from therein. For the neophytes reading this, Invisible Man is not merely "a book about overcoming racial injustice" -- as it would appear on the surface to many. To typecast this work in such a way would do nothing short of a grave disservice to the late Ellison. Invisible Man, contrarily, transcends mere race and delves into, as Ellison calls it, "the beautiful absurdity of the American identity."

    We are all aiding and abetting lies, Ellison says, by judging others in a coldly insular & scientifically calculated manner based solely upon one's outward appearance -- not unlike the The Brotherhood, Norton, Bledsoe, & Ras the Exhorter. As our hapless (and interestingly nameless), yet undeniably endearing, protagonist astutely states, "The truth is the light and light is the truth." As he is invisible without truth, the truth, conversely, is unattainable without light.

    Ellison takes us on a circuitous, if not tumultuous, road to self-awareness that is tragically achieved through his naive and idealistic dreams being systematically shattered by the irrepressibly cynical charlatans in whom he has put his unconditional trust such as the Iago-like Brother Jack. In a book where perception is anything but reality, Ellison's cryptic characters (such as Brother Jack and his inexplicable use of a foreign language and inscrutable glass eye as well as the ostensibly omnipresent, yet never present, Rinehart) without doubt add to this mysterious, yet pervasive, feeling of uncontrollable helplessness of our protagonist who is being inexorably jettisoned into a blurry chaotic world grossly devoid of right and wrong.

    Two FYIs: Appropriately, the only letters on the book cover which become "invisible" when looked at from a distance are the two I's. Also: read the prologue again after reading the entire book seeing, as Ellison succinctly states in both the prologue and epilogue, "The end was in the beginning and lies far ahead."...more info

  • As much about experimental writing as it is race or politics.
    "I am an invisible man," begins Ralph Ellison's classic-for-a-reason novel. In its beginning, the story is already at its end, inside the mind of its unnamed narrator after he has undergone enlightenment. In the rest of the book, he shows how he came to live "outside of history."

    In each chapter, the narrator experiences humiliation, [...], and self-delusion. At some points, as a reader, I wanted to shake him. This story of waking up takes awhile, but Ellison's examples of life's "beautiful absurdities" require the reader to become as beaten down as the narrator.

    A novel that has often been voted the most influential of the twentieth-century doesn't need me to recommend it. But you might particularly like Invisible Man if you enjoy Catch-22, Joyce, or James Baldwin. ...more info
  • Invisible Man
    To be quite honest the book, "Invisible Man" was not what I expected. First, it's entirely too long, somewhat boring, a little confusing and terribly disturbing to me. I thought it was going to be mostly about a man isolating himself from the world. To my surprise the book is about a black man and the struggles he endures because of his race. There are many parts of this book that I found upsetting, one in particular is when the young man (narrator) is asked to deliver his speech, the one he had given at his graduation. This speech he must now deliver to some important white men, and ends up having to watch a nude women dance, then given clothes for the purpose of fighting blindfolded in a ring with other black kids. After being assaulted by these kids he has to fight a very large black boy who beats him. After that match the boys are paid with coins that are placed on an electric mat for the sole purpose of embarrassing the boys again in front of the white men. Finally, the boy is asked to deliver his speech which ends up being only a few drunk white men listening. Throughout this book, the Invisible Man goes through his life suffering because he will not conform to others expectations. By the end of the book he realized he will always have to struggle with the racial issue. Believing he will never be seen as the man he knows, he gives up and goes underground to become the Invisible Man. I will not recommend this book to anyone I know....more info
  • Great American Novel
    Ellison's Invisible Man is a masterpiece of artful writing and incisive social commentary. On the surface, it seems as if this is yet another successful personal narrative of a young Black man whose journey to spiritual adulthood is fraught with the perils of racial myopia from within and outside his race. But what makes this truly a prophetic novel is Ellison's ability to capture the essential journey of everyone's search for identity and ultimate meaning; this isn't a "Black novel." Ellison's Invisible Man is America's Everyman, lost and looking to find an identity that is at once sufficiently communal to provide security and sufficiently independent to feel truly human.

    This novel demands a sensitive reader, open to the possibility of the narrator's consciousness and aware of Ellison's multivalent use of symbol, metaphor, sophisticated organization and layering of plot and point of view. Hopefully, the novel will reveal another aspect of the perennial quest to know ourselves more fully as humans.

    ...more info
  • Deep
    A MUST READ! This book is very deep; I read it twice. Read this book for it's deeper meaning....more info
  • Invisible man review
    When I first bought this book I just needed it for my English class but when I started reading it I really did enjoy it. If you're looking for a book with a deeper meaning and something that really looks at racial issues in a different perspective this is the book for you. I bought mine used but honestly it was in great shape. This is an awesome book enjoy!...more info
  • Believable but confusing
    Once I opened the book and read the first page, I was confused and my mind was in a tangled web for I could not understand some of the writing and diction Ralph Ellison chose to use. This was a tough book for me to read because of that, but overall, the story was just okay.

    I did learn more about how discrimination and racism really affected those of color, but it was nothing I hadn't heard before. There was no excitement from the beginning through to the end and I started to lose interest as the story dragged itself out. Nothing grasped my attention or made me want to keep reading so that contributed to even more confusion and boredom.

    Ralph Ellison did a good job by transferring real life situations into the life of the narrator. These situations seemed believable and brutal, just like life was for those of color back in the 1900's. What I didn't like about the story was how confusing the concepts were about the Brotherhood. I don't know anything about this and I got angry very easily by trying to interpret everything. I would definitely not recommend this book, or at least I wouldn't to a seventeen year old in an English class.
    ...more info
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
    Great book. It was written at a time where racial tension was an issue at every moment in life for blacks in America. ...more info
  • Invisible Man
    This one's about an unnamed narrator who journeys from the South to the North and what he experiences as a black man in the early to mid-twentieth century. I have to say that I kind of got what was meant by him being Invisible as he says he is in the novels beginning. No one really listens to him all throughout this thing. Toward the end it becomes almost laughable as he impersonates another person, compeletely fooling everyone. There is alot of racism in this novel and this may seem a strange-sounding review. The book is well-written but it feels like a series of seperate events that are only connected by the common narrator. There isn't much of an interesting story. Once he gets North, he joins some kind of Communist group for what reason I don't recall. And none of this is really interesting. I guess the message of Invisibility is what counts here as they mainly use him a token black guy and don't really see him as a true person at all. There is one semi-cool character named Ras the Exhorter who is against the Communists and wants all blacks against all whites. He later becomes Ras the Destroyer and goes out to war in the novels exciting race-riot scenes. But you have to go through hundreds of pages to get to that. I felt that Ellison ripped off some things from Richard Wright's Black Boy novel. For instance, he joins a Communist group just as Wright did. There are other things that happen but I don't feel like going into everything now. Basically, the narrator's life here imitates Richard Wrights in alot of ways I feel. So I guess you should read this one if you want to be able to say you did it or to try and spot all the ways the narrator is "invisible." Or you could just read a thorough plot synopsis and save yourself the time....more info
  • Am I awake?
    This book was nothing that I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be about slavery and how black people became independent. Everyone I spole to said it was stupid and not to read it, they were right.
    "Invisible Man" is a boring book. The only thing that it's really about is how black people were treated after slavery. It starts out when a boy (the narrator) gets expelled from college, because he took a trustee to the old slavery houses. The trustee discovered a story on how this man impregnated his own daughter and his wife at the same time. Eventually the trustee started to have some sort of attack, and the man took him to a bar/whore house, where lunatics from some hospital near by attented. The director of the college expelled him and gave him some letters of recommendation so he could get a job, they really were letters that basically said don't hire this man he's trouble. Well geuss what? He got a job all by himself and he got hurt and fired in the same day. In between all of that black people called eachother brother, sister, and niggah which get's a little old after the first five times. The only think this book is about is how black people were treated so badly, I don't feel bad for them because they didn't try to change it. I think that since the man moved into a free state where they treated black people a little better that he should have done something greater instead of becoming an insirational speaker for some secret organization. All he did was speak infront of people speeche after speech. And all for what?
    In the end he gave up, he accepted defeat. He simple accepted something taht he could have changed. He made himself the invisible man, and so he lived in his hole with many lights...more info
  • One Hit Wonder
    Ralph Ellison is known for this book. He seems to me an African J.D. Salinger in that regard, except that "Catcher in the Rye" is a much better book than "Invisible Man". I even prefer the H.G. Wells "Invisible Man" to this one.
    I hear you all saying, "Say what?" or "Whatchoo Talkin' bout, Kwame?" But it is true- I'm not a fan of this book. And I'll tell you why: It is boring and pretentious.
    I don't want to imply that I don't appreciate all Ellison experienced- he is a part of the African-IN-America experience, and is not to be ignored. The book does have the right messages about race relations and how we folk feel alienated in our exile. Right on.
    The problem isn't the message as the presentation. The book is a mess! It is like reading "Ulysses" at times, or even worse, "Finnigan's Wake". I sometimes feel that because a black man was able to write a book that wasn't "simplistic", he got the genius label slapped all over him. This is probably why poor Ralph lacked the confidence to write another book. Another victim of condescending liberal white America.
    I wonder what he would have produced without this stigma.
    As it is, I get the feeling people like the idea of this book more than the book itself. And high school teachers feel great assigning this, while they read the Cliff Notes.
    ...more info
  • A Book to be Enjoyed -- Again and Again!
    Dense with powerful symbolism and dancing with artfully subtle language, Invisible Man stands as one of the greatest works of American literature ever. Moving and evocative, but with great dignity and candor, it reveals to the each reader the perpetual search that waits within each of us. While it's not a roadmap to inner truth, it's a damn good start towards self-awareness... Other recent great Amazon Purchases: The Basketball Diaries by Carroll, The Losers' Club by Richard Perez...more info
  • The Secret Drama of the True America
    There must be a thousand and one ways to read "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison but in my preferred and personal reading it is the secret drama of the true America; not the America worshipped in high politics, big business, and celebrated in the major media. Below the shimmering shards of official American optimism and narcissistic posturing is the unnamed protagonist suffering what is given him to suffer, knowing the unbearable secrets of what he must know, doing the terrible deeds that are given him to do.
    Ellison has taken the central story of the black descendants of slaves and shown that it is a universal story - the tale of whoever you are out there living on the fringes of prestige and power in the True America - despised, rejected, and outcast.
    It is its centricity to the occult human spirit whereever it suffers that makes "Invisible Man" one of the top three or four great novels of the American century that is now past....more info
  • Satisfied
    I was completely happy and satisfied with the product I received. It came in great condition. But the only thing that made me feel uncomfortable with the purchase was the time that it took to receive the product. Which was probably due to the christmas holidays. However other then that customer service was good....more info
  • Great Book So far
    So far, this is a really great read! I don't know how I missed this years ago.. I read ALOT! But I agree with the person above's comment, that I found it easy to put the book down fom a while. I got a little bored with Ralph Ellison's overly descriptive imagination. I almost felt like he was what I a "PAGE FILLER" Just trying to make the book longer. I think this book is taking me the longest it ever has to read a book because of that one thing... But after I skipped a few pages (I don't usually do that.. but I just couldn't take it anymore) I got right back into it.. I let you know what I think once I finish.......more info
  • Above and Beyond
    The book, The Invisible Man, is unquestionably a delicate piece of fine art. Whoever this "Stayy21" person below is, she is nutzoid psychotic! I read other books she reviewed and she's dogged them. I think she's a jealous, misgruntled author whose books are doing poorly. I believe she is talking about these author's work personally and with envy. There is no way that Kim Roby, Bev Rolyat and Omar Tyree's books are low rated. Those are three great novels. Read them for yourselves. Not to mention the Invisible Man which is by far one of the most important classical pieces of literature for AA culture. The nerve of "Stayy21."...more info
  • The science of Nobodiness
    Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN tackles an issue that frankly is so huge and complex that you wouldn't think it could be captured in a single novel. However, Ralph Ellison pulls off the nearly impossible. Unlike other stories about the suppression/oppression of African-Americans which usually depict the protagonist as a victim of circumstance who is viewed as an enemy of the white people (read NATIVE SON), Ellison depicts the more real and punishing truth. That truth is that the African-American is hardly viewed at all by the white race. The African-American is unseen, his/her needs not addressed, his/her existence not acknowledged. This is a sentiment (if it can be called that) which is echoed in King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail".

    Ellison's nameless and blameless protagonist isn't viewed as a person by anyone. He is seen as a source of entertainment, or a source of athleticism, or a case to be tended to... anything except a human being. Ellison's story is devestating, and yet not fatalistic. The protagonist's continuing sense of decency, self-assertion (in his own way) and humanity is not squelched, even at the end. The fact that he bothers to tell his story indicates a hope for an audience to his drama. Perhaps there is hope for all of us....more info

  • The invisibility of man
    "The Invisible Man" is a classic novel which uses the first person narrator, the invisible man, to move the reader through various types of racism, dishonesty, and deceptiveness which a black man in the 1950's would encounter. The more the invisible man is used by others, the more invisible he becomes and the less self-identity he possesses. He allows himself, unwittingly, to be used by others, both black and white, for their own purposes. He gains nothing from dealing with these characters and actually loses more and more of his self-worth, thus creating his invisibility as a person. It is only when he begins to realize that he must define his own self-worth and not allow others to dictate to him or define his identity that his "invisibility" begins to diminish. The idea that "white is right, white has might", symbolized by the paint factory, was the ideology of those times. Segregation was practiced and blacks were looked down upon as ignorant, nameless members of the American culture. They were invisible citizens in a white-dominated culture. The author wanted to send the message to readers that America was founded upon the philosophy of individual freedom in all areas and that nothing was gained by forcing people to conform to society's standards. By conforming, individual identity is lost and invisibility as a person increases. "I am not invisible that nobody can see me. I am invisible because they choose not to see me." That was the truth the invisible man finally learned. From that truth, he was able to begin defining his own identity and not be the invisible man in his own eyes....more info
  • We are Invisible
    I believe Ralph was exploring three major themes. One, race and color cannot always tell us how and why a person responds to situations the way that they do. There are others factors. Two, we all own America. There is no one way to think about something. Three, individuals must rise above history, tradition, and status quo.
    Following black nationalism is a pitfall because it denies that black people help build this nation. Unions and clubs only seek to control individuals for its own purpose. Finally, sometimes you must "burn" your papers and start over but it has little to do with race. Great read, should be required reading for all high school students in America. ...more info
  • I choose to see him
    He is an invisible man, not that he is physically invisible, but because people refuse to see him as he is, or so the story starts.

    The story is about a youthful, unnamed black man, who starts off naive and full of idealism. Throughout the book, he faces different ordeals, transforms himself several times, and makes many discoveries about the society in which he lives, each time growing as an individual and trying to find his identity.

    The reason I liked this book so much because the way in which it was written makes you care about something you otherwise might not, let alone know about, how blacks weren't even paid attention to in the United States in the period before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. They weren't so much oppressed or hated, but rather ignored altogether, which, when you think about it, is much worse. It shows just a taste of how much blacks have been wronged, by whites as well as blacks. It also helped my on my path to finding who I was, even though I am not black myself.

    The only thing I really disliked about this book was the slow pacing. In my opinion, the story could have been told in less detail and in less time, while still having the same effectiveness.

    This is a book that deals with racism and blacks in society, so know what you're getting into when you read it. Ellison uses a lot of Southern or uneducated diction, which can be confusing at times if you've never heard it spoken before. He also uses a lot of symbols, which I thought were well used and added greatly to the book. This great American novel, though quite lengthy at 500+ pages, is worth the read, even if you're like me and not really into that sort of stuff.

    I read this novel for an English class, so it was a close reading and I had to go back a lot, reread, and identify many things, things I wouldn't have noticed with just a casual reading. Everytime I went back and read something over, the book made more sense and I liked it more.

    Even though Ellison addresses many of the racial problems in America, and possibly inspired things to be done about them, many problems still exist today. Perhaps more people need to read it and be opened to another view of things....more info

  • "I would have sworn you were a pork chop man."
    On several occasions after the publication of his masterpiece, Ralph Ellison acknowledged James Joyce's influence, especially the parallels with "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." Each book traces the development of the consciousness of its lead character, and the style of each novel, as Ellison admitted, moves from naturalism to expressionism to surrealism--although, one might argue, the opening scene of "Invisible Man" hardly resembles anything in the tradition of American naturalism: a grisly boxing match between black men vying for survival as entertainment for a rabid crowd of white patrons. At the end of this "battle royal", the protagonist wins a chance to speak to the audience and receives a promised scholarship to college.

    Yet Ellison has most certainly not rewritten Joyce's Ulyssean vision. Instead he has turned Joyce, and the world, on its head; the unnamed lead character, through a series of epiphanies, realizes that society--and his place in it--is never what it seems or claims to be. We watch Ellison's hero evolve, as he learns that participation in white American society doesn't mean that he needs to deny his racial background and folk (read: democratic) traditions The result is an altogether new work, whose comic, satiric, tragic, and even bitter tone describes a world in which up is down and the North is like the South.

    The uniqueness of Ellison's work is multiplied by unreal (and seemingly unrealistic) situations. The boxing match is the first of a series of bizarre misadventures; once in college, the "invisible man" serves as chauffeur to an elderly white patron. Like moths to a flame, this odd couple end up exploring the underbelly of the local black community, from a sharecropper's farm to a local brothel. This unintentionally rebellious act results in his expulsion from college; he moves to New York, ultimately finding a role as an organizer for the Communist Party, yet initially unaware that he is nothing more than a trophy. In one of the most angrily ironic scenes of the book, the leaders who have chosen him largely because he is black denounce him for speaking up for "the political consciousness of Harlem" and accuse him of "riding 'race' again." For these political leaders, "such crowds are only our raw materials, one of the raw materials to be shaped to our program."

    The concluding scenes take place during the 1943 Harlem riots, where the invisible man finds himself torn between the black nationalism of Ras the Exhorter (modeled after Marcus Garvey) and a mysterious, unseen underworld zootsuiter/minister named Rinehart, who steps "outside the narrow borders of what men call reality" and "into chaos or imagination."

    While the ambiguity of these episodes is intensified by the bleakness of Ellison's vision, "Invisible Man" is, at its heart, darkly funny. And Ellison offers no clear answers. In one memorable scene, the lead character enters a diner, asks for the breakfast special, and is offered "pork chops, grits, one egg, hot biscuits, and coffee." Angry at being pegged for a stereotypical Southern black man ("I would have sworn you were a pork chop man," responds the waiter), he orders orange juice, toast, and coffee. As he leaves, however, he notices the counterman serving a "plate of pork chops and grits to a man with a pale blond mustache." Had he seen racism where there was none? Who, indeed, is "a pork chop man"? Was he too quick to deny his ethnic heritage? Had ethnic food, like the jazz and blues that pervade the novel, so saturated white culture that the some of the boundaries were blurring? Ellison leaves these questions unanswered, choosing instead to underscore what it means to be black in America....more info
  • We are all invisible!
    Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is at its core a treatise on man's inhumanity to man. What could cause people to put up with the horrifying "Battle Royal" depicted early in the novel. It's very simple, actually, as Ralph Ellison repeatedly lets us know. Most human beings treat their fellow men as pawns to be manipulated in order to fulfill certain selfish means. We see this again and again in the novel. The white benefactor to the college views the main character and his university as nothing more than another tax write-off or an antidote to his nagging conscience. When he is confronted with the reality of the deep South, when the horror of the true conditions of most blacks is revealed to him during the road trip, the main character is expelled for exposing these members of society the dean wants to keep "invisible." The Communist Party also views blacks as nothing more than a special interest group that they can keep in check and manipulate through their rhetoric. To them, the main character, with his great legitimate success and intelligence, is a greater threat than Ras the Destroyer, a mindless thug. Ras is helping the blacks stay invisible, but the main character is pushing them to succeed and forcing society to deal with them as human beings, which the party finds unacceptable. Upon realizing this, the main character at first tries to "defeat them with yeses" as his father advised him and withdraws from the people who cannot see his inner being. However, he concludes that such an acceptance is a betrayal of himself. He decides to learn to start "saying yes and saying no" to the roles that are thurst upon him.

    What is the universal message here? It is that in this world, social relationships have been established between human beings, but in almost all of these relationships we are restrained from exposing our inner self. Think about it. Try to count how many unwritten rules you follow in you interactions with other people. There are things you can and cannot say, feelings you can and cannot express, ideas that you can and cannot convey, parts of your soul that you can and cannot reveal. It all depends on who you are dealing with. How are we to respond to such a situation? We must "say yes and say no," we must accept certain boundaries but strive to look beyond them and, little by little, push them back. Pick up a copy of this great American Masterpiece. I promise Invisible Man will make you think! Another, much lighter book I need to recommend is The Losers Club by Richard Perez (Complete Restored Edition), an Amazon purchase that I stumbled on by accident and truly love....more info