The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

invisible manThis novel, an African-American classic, won the National Book Award in 1953.  It’s not an easy read – Ellison used a highly articulate narrator who didn’t tell the story in the style of today’s popular fiction.  It is, however, a very rewarding book.

The narrator is a young African-American man who completes high school in the 1920s.  A superb student and orator, he wins a scholarship to a college similar to Ellison’s alma mater, Tuskegee Institute, and considers himself to be on the way to a successful economic future.  As the plot develops, however, he becomes disillusioned with his college, his job at a paint company, and the Brotherhood (based on the Communist Party) as well as with most people, both African-American and white, whom he meets.  He feels invisible, since everyone seems to think of him according to racial stereotypes or through the lenses of an ideology rather than recognizing him as an individual.  At the beginning of the book, he describes his isolation and disillusionment and then goes back in time to describe the events that shaped his attitudes.

Although Invisible Man takes place prior to the Civil Rights Movement, parts of it seem as modern as the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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One Response

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