Speech and Rhetoric in Invisible Man

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Oratory and Rhetoric in Invisible Man

Many fall victim to the influence of powerful speech—throughout history, public speakers have used oration and rhetoric to manipulate their listeners. Public speaking is an art, as it is often practiced and rehearsed. Politicians, for example, consciously employ the art of oration in hopes of gaining support, sometimes abandoning their own beliefs in order to cater to the audiences’. Similarly, the Invisible Man, in the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, lives each moment as if he is a politician delivering a speech under the scrutiny of an audience—he constantly disciplines himself to adhere to the expectations of others. Ironically, the scenes in which the Invisible Man actually delivers speeches offer the most genuine glimpse of his identity as he loses self-control to his passion and speaks from within. The continual triumph of his discipline to please others prolongs the Invisible Man’s journey to self-awareness. Through his speeches, the Invisible Man uncovers a subconscious place where his emotions take over; from his own words, he learns about his identity and his past. When he gives speeches, the Invisible Man is no longer literally invisible—he is the focus of an audience and people can see him. Throughout the novel, the Invisible Man isolates himself by associating with people who lack best interest in him. However, he forges true human connection with others when he is an orator giving speeches, particularly during the eviction speech and his first speech with the Brotherhood. The Invisible Man establishes intimacy with his audience with his tact rhetoric: he uses inclusive language and emotion to appeal to each individual. When he delivers the speech at the eviction site, he says “…We’ve been dispossessed…” (279). By saying “we,” the Invisible Man groups everyone together, and asserts that they are all at an injustice, which invokes interest in his listeners. He sets up his speeches like a dialogue,...
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