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Free Study Guide: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - Free BookNotes

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INVISIBLE MAN BY RALPH ELLISON: PLOT ANALYSIS / LITERATURE NOTES

CHAPTER 11

Summary

The narrator returns to consciousness in the factory laboratory. Several physicians wander in and out, talking about him as if he is not there. He is strapped down inside a glass box. At one point, the talk of treating the narrator turns to lobotomies and experimental electric shock therapy. The procedure is painful, taking him in and out of consciousness. Eventually, the narrator has totally forgotten his own identity; he wonders if he will be set free once he remembers who he is. However, the doctors ask him his name, and when he doesnít know, they let him go. He leaves the hospital and wonders out into the Harlem streets.

Notes


This chapter is disorienting and bizarre. The narrator has been taken to some kind of clinic for treatment that leaves him totally confused and bewildered. The strange irony is that the narrator thinks he might be set free when he can remember his identity, but in actuality the laboratory workers want the total opposite, the complete loss of memory. While it may seem their motivation is fear of the consequences of the laboratory accident, Ellison actually uses the incident to drive home the growing theme of the white manís desire to erase the identity of the black man. Earlier, in the Golden Day, the veteran had told Mr. Norton that if the people downstairs realized who Mr. Norton truly was, his life would lose all its inflated value. Likewise, if the narrator can remember his own identity and value himself, he will not overvalue white men. For obvious reasons, no one this far in the novel has wanted him to stop overvaluing white society; the narratorís inflated sense of white manís worth is what gives the white man power over him.


CHAPTER 12

Summary

The narrator faints and collapses on the street. A crowd gathers around him, and a kind woman helps him up and takes him to her home. Her name is Mary, and she offers him a room to rent. He accepts, realizing he can no longer board back at the Men's House. Mary talks incessantly of hope and responsibility. Though her endless talking annoys him, Mary at least treats him live a visible person.

The narrator stays mostly in his room reading books. Since the incident in the paint factory, he has become obsessed with his identity and is stressed by contradictory voices within himself. Something is slowly beginning to change in him, but the only thing obvious to him is his growing anger and resentment. As he walks down the streets, angry words spew involuntarily from his mouth. He finds his passion for making speeches is returning.

Notes

Ironically, as the narrator begins to feel more confused about who he is, he begins to behave more like his earlier, younger self, wanting to make speeches. He is suddenly filled with things to say, conscious of the debate within himself. Now that he has been disillusioned by Dr. Bledsoe, he can begin to question things in a healthy way.


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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: Free BookNotes Summary


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