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INVISIBLE MAN BY RALPH ELLISON: BOOK SUMMARY / NOTES
About two weeks pass, and the narrator attends a meeting where Wrestrum calls a complaint on him before the committee. As he is being accused, the narrator notices a certain spark of pleasure in Jack's eyes as he scribbles on a pad. Wrestrum accuses him of being a petty individualist, sabotaging the Brotherhood by exploiting it for his own purposes. He offers the magazine article as proof, saying that the interview was arranged by the narrator to celebrate himself as an exceptional individual. The narrator denies offering anything but the standard explanation of the organization and regular literature handouts when speaking to the reporter. He is asked to step out momentarily while the committee discusses the matter.
He is called back in the room and dismissed of the charges of being an enemy,
but questions remain about the magazine article. The narrator is furious
that the charges were made in the first place; however, the situation
is explained to him in such a logical manner that he feels he must accept.
A charge was made and, right or wrong, they have an obligation to investigate.
Now they ask him to relocate until all charges against him may be cleared.
He has been reassigned to speak on behalf of feminist issues. He is disappointed,
but too ambitious to refuse relocation. He will speak on anything important
for the Brotherhood as long as he can advance. The narrator decides that
the relocation is an expression of the Brotherhood’s unbroken faith in
him. After all, he is being asked to address a taboo topic and open the
Brotherhood to women. He leaves with misguided optimism.
The letter he finds in the beginning of the chapter calls to mind the other two letters in the novel: the one he dreamed about and the one Bledsoe gave him. All three are designed to keep “the nigger running;” the narrator is to be kept in his place, uncomfortable with his abilities and unsure of his identity in the world. Later it becomes evident that the author of the letter is none other than Brother Jack, who is seen smiling when the narrator is formally charged with a complaint. For now, however, the narrator is kept guessing, kept running.
In this chapter, Ellison brings out the issue that the individual has no place within the Brotherhood. In fact, Wrestrum is introduced to point out that the Brotherhood is not interested in individual experience or identity. He nit-picks with the narrator, saying he should not have things such as a link on his desk, for he shows individuality. He reminds the narrator that the Brotherhood is about one mutual cause. Time and again the narrator is cautioned against being unique, individual, personal. Wrestrum complains to the committee that the narrator is too interested in his own identity, bringing out in the open some of the narrator’s internal struggle. It is obvious that Wrestrum is jealous of the narrator's growing influence and is fairly ridiculous in his accusations and presentation. It is obvious that Wrestrum is the one who makes the complaint about the narrator to the committee.
The invisible man cannot figure out why the committee would listen to Wrestrum,
whom he judges as a “clown.” He cannot understand why he must stand in
front of others in the Brotherhood to be judged. The scene is similar
to the night of the battle royal of the first chapter. The committeemen
sit around smoking and seem to enjoy making the narrator squirm with discomfort.
Like the white leaders who paid for the young black men to fight one another
and jump on electric rugs, these leaders in the Brotherhood give Wrestrum
a forum in which to degrade the narrator. Even though the narrator sees
clearly that Wrestrum is jealous of him and trying to get rid of him,
he continues to accept orders from the committee; he leaves Harlem, which
he loves, to take a new a assignment. He does not dare to complain, for
fear of losing more favor. Neither does he recognize that the “dance”
he is doing for the Brotherhood is degrading to himself the same way the
Battle Royal was degrading to the young men.
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. 09 May 2017