Questions to consider while reading chapters from Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel, Invisible Man:
How does the narrator perceive himself within the context of society? What does his perception of himself as an invisible man infer? What is the cause of his invisibility?
What does Louis Armstrong’s “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue” refer to?
Describe Bledsoe’s character. What is his ideology? What does the narrator learn from this encounter?
What is Bledsoe’s relationship to the white community; and the black community?
What is Liberty Paints a metaphor of?
What does the “optic white” paint symbolize?
What does the coin bank signify? How does the narrator’s interaction with this object reflect the narrator’s thoughts and reality?
How is the narrator’s perception of himself and society different from the prologue?
Other questions to consider:
How is The Invisible Man an existential novel?
How is jazz incorporated into this novel?
Describe the writing style of Ellison’s novel. How does it relate to the content of the story? How does it affect the way in which the reader perceives the story?
What are the different ideologies presented in the novel? List the way in which these ideologies are presented and in which characters represent them. How does Ellison view them?
What is the impact of the Grandfather’s speech in Chapter 1 on the narrator? He had been a slave and was freed. At his deathbed his last words to the narrator’s father were “ Son, after I’m gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy’s country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion’s mouth. I want you to overcome ‘em with yeses, undermine ‘em with grins, agree ‘em to death and destruction, let ‘em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide...
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