The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

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Ralph Ellison was born in Oklahoma and educated at the Tuskegee Institute. He has studied music and sculpture, lectured on Negro culture and James Joyce, written short stories and literary criticism. In “Invisible Man” he has written a book about the emotional and intellectual hazards which beset the educated Negro in America. He has written it on two levels. The first is the level of story-telling, the second that of exaggeration, suggestion and symbolism. Almost an allegory at times, Invisible Man uses some well-worn story arcs to propel the nameless protagonist on an Oz-like journey through a world that is of course ours, and yet fantastical, too. Mr. Ellison has a grand flair for gaudy melodrama, for savage comedy, for emphatic characterization. He is not interested in literal, realistic truth, but in an emotional, atmospheric truth which he drives home with violence, writing about grotesquely violent situations. With gruesome power he has given “Invisible Man” the frenzied tension of a nightmare. The Invisible Man journeys from the South to New York, encountering characters like tall tales, or German expressionist creations jumping out from behind corners. Ellison uses a steady hand to tell his story of what it means to be Black in America, but embraces irony in place of moralizing. At the novel’s close, the Invisible Man is bunkered down in Harlem, in a basement full of light. He may be ready to emerge, to bring that light out. The reader can only hope.

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