Invisible Man Musically-Inspired or Inflected Term Paper

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And E-sharps, form the main part of the piece. At the end of it all comes a dramatically violent, sharp and steep-rising crescendo followed by a clear, calm and measured finally that is flat: so flat, in fact, as to thud percussively and at once to the earth and after it fall wobblingly below it.

Ralph Ellison thus orchestrates the unpredictable actions and tone changes and of this novel with the skill of a maestro: from the narrator's grandfather's bassoon-like deathbed warning, to the fateful chance meeting with Norris to the expulsion from school to the narrator's discovery of the true content of the seven reference letters he has so industrially distributed, the parts of the story are as tightly controlled, juxtaposed, varied, blended, surprising, and climactic as a symphonic masterpiece. Ellison, through the voice of his unnamed narrator, "conducts" cadence, pace, rhythm of the main action, and even perhaps our own response to it. The first "movement" of the book starts where it eventually ends, in the black hole of the Invisible Man. Such invisibility propels the action: the narrator's struggle to be "seen" and recognized, including by his own true self:

All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive.

I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer... I am nobody but myself. (Ellison, p. 15)

Within this initial "movement" of the story, the narrator believes, as others have told him, the way forward is through college learning. So he does so, on "a scholarship to the state college for Negroes" (p. 32) from his town's [white] "big shots" (p. 17) (they publicly humiliate him and other black young men first). At college, he yearns to become an "EDUCATOR" (p. 114) like Dr. Bledsoe. Yet when rich, white, Mr. Norris, a benefactor, comes to campus and curiosity combined with circumstances lead Norris (the narrator, his driver for today, takes him there) to Jim Trueblood and his story of incest, and next the Golden Day, Bledsoe becomes furious enough to expel the narrator. Bledsoe obviously has no desire to truly educate others about the black community, almost as if concealing such truths from wealthy white donors will make them vanish. The unplanned outing to the dark underside beyond college is educational for Norris but not in a way that pleases Dr. Bledsoe. So the narrator is exiled.

The second, and core "movement" (see Heise, 2003) of the story takes place upon the narrator's arrival to New York, with no job, money, or friends. The letters from Dr. Bledsoe provide security but also happen to lead him to Emerson's son. Next is the Brotherhood; here the narrator begins his real education. Ironically, his goal to be an "educator" changes to one of wishing to inspire others by making rousing public speeches for the Brotherhood. After his first speech, however, they say it was too emotional.

Continuing, one Brotherhood member states "It was a most unsatisfactory beginning" (p. 341). When pressed, this Brother continues (p. 342): "In my opinion, the speech was wild, hysterical, politically irresponsible, and dangerous... incorrect [emphasis not added]!" (pp. 341-342). Another adds "I think the speech was backward and reactionary." Still, later when alone, the narrator begins to feel a greater sense of his self, and in ways he would not have predicted earlier: For the first time, lying in the dark, I could glimpse the possibility of being more than a member of a race. It was no dream, the possibility existed. I had only to work and learn and survive... Sure, I'd study with Hambro. I'd learn what he had to teach and a lot more. Let tomorrow come. (Ellison, Invisible Man, pp. 347-348)

His next moment of self-revealing truth occurs after Tod Clifton's murder by a street cop. Clifton has, unknown to other Brothers, actually abandoned the Brotherhood by that point, and, in what would be to them an outrageous betrayal, now even sells little Sambo-like obscene African-American-like dolls on the street that dance obscenely to a song whose words degrades blacks. The narrator speaks at Clifton's Brotherhood-sponsored funeral, however, saying nothing of what he saw Clifton selling today.[continue]

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