Free Study Guide: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - Free BookNotes|
Downloadable / Printable Version
INVISIBLE MAN BY RALPH ELLISON: ONLINE BOOK SUMMARY
As the narrator walks down the street, he is addressed as Rinehart again by two men who are drinking. When they ask him for a job, he waves them off and continues down the street. Suddenly, his arm is taken by a woman who calls him Rine. She wants to know some figures from him since he is the numbers runner. He explains that he is not Rine. She apologizes and she says she would have known if she had looked at his shoes. Rine wore knob-toed shoes. The narrator is next approached by a police officer who mistakes him for Rinehart. The narrator explains that he is not Rinehart, but the officer does not believe him. The officer tells him that he better give him his cut in the numbers business if he does not want trouble.
A group of men with guns show up as the police officer leaves. They want to know if the officer has been harassing him. He tells them that the officer had mistaken him for Rinehart. They cannot believe that anyone would mistake him for Rinehart, though a couple of them admit that he does favor Rinehart a little. They tell him that they are patrolling the community to put a stop to police violence. The narrator is amazed that a hat and shades can change his identity so quickly.
Another woman approaches him on the street calling him Rinehart and trying to give him money. He regrets to inform her that he is not who she thinks he is. She insults him, a fight erupts, and he walks away. He comes to a church where two boys are handing out leaflets. He accepts one, only to be informed of what the community is doing. He cannot believe that the reverend listed on the leaflet is Rinehart. He wonders if this could be the same Rinehart, the numbers runner. He enters the church and is immediately mistaken for Rinehart. A group of old Southern women introduces a new member who has come up North just to hear him. They report on their recent sales on his latest sermon recordings. He feels safer not telling them he is not Rinehart. Again, the narrator wonders about Rinehart. He figures the man must be years ahead of him, understanding the world of possibility when one is invisible. He tries to understand how this sort of dual existence fits in theoretically with the wisdom of the Brotherhood.
The narrator continues to Hambro's house to talk about his future in the Brotherhood. He asks Hambro what he should do with his district. Hambro announces that the members of his district will have to be sacrificed for the good of the larger plans of the Brotherhood. He realizes that since he has awakened to the lifestyle of Rinehart, living many lives in his invisible state, there is little to say between him and Hambro anymore. He does not understand why his district is to be sacrificed. He asks Hambro why the sacrificed are not informed so that they may at least be willing to offer themselves as a sacrifice. Hambro tells him that the new objective will be to slow down the people of his district for their own good. The narrator cannot believe this. He wonders how he could have relied on the Brotherhood for so much integrity, seeing now how they are acting, how they have used him and his district. Hambro tells him his new job will be to teach whoever will listen. The narrator says he would feel two-faced. Hambro admits that it is impossible not to take advantage of the people, but argues it is in their own best interests. The narrator becomes frustrated with Hambro and tells him how everywhere in his life he has been asked to sacrifice for the good, to give up the weak for the benefit of the strong. He leaves in a worse mood than when he came. He wonders what Hambro would think if he were the one being sacrificed.
The narrator agonizes over what to do; what to tell his district. Suddenly he realizes he does not have to tell them anything. They do not know anything about him. He is meaningless to them beyond giving them hope. He can probably walk amongst them unrecognized, unwelcomed. He can become a Rinehart, an invisible man. This realization confuses the narrator; he wonders how he can exist and yet be so invisible to the people he is with.
The narrator becomes filled with resentment for the Brotherhood. They know nothing of the community nor do they appreciate the work done in their name. He is flooded with emotion and memory when he realizes they cannot take his identity from him any more than they can give it to him. They may not be able to see him, but he is made of his experiences, and they cannot take that from him. He had thought they accepted him regardless of color, but now he sees they only used him. He understands at last his invisibility and is ready to test it to its fullest.
The narrator believes he understands the words of his grandfather now and decides to set out to "overcome them with yesses," the phrase his grandfather used to describe his resistance strategy. He will use his invisibility to confirm all of their misconceptions; he will not be accountable because he is not visible. He realizes that he has already changed his whole identity once without anyone ever questioning him about it. He decides to deceive the Brotherhood, coax them into a false sense of security about his compliance in relation to the district. He will become a spy, an invisible force
The narrator knows he has no theorists with whom to work and no allies. He
must find his possibility on his own within the lifestyle of Rinehart
and invisibility. He falls asleep trying to figure out how he can invade
the intelligence of headquarters. When he wakes up, he wonders how Rinehart
would have behaved in his position. Suddenly, he thinks that the solution
to his problem of infiltrating the Brotherhood is through using a woman.
He recalls a woman involved in the Brotherhood who is making plans for
Jack's upcoming birthday party. It is a significant recollection.
This chapter is extremely important for it teaches the narrator new lessons about being invisible. When he buys new sunglasses to disguise himself, he is repeatedly mistaken for a man called Rinehart. He is amazed that a hat and glasses can change his identity so completely. Because he is called Rinehart so often, he beings to wonder who Rinehart is. When a woman approaches and tries to give him money, the narrator realizes that Rinehart is a numbers runner. This is confirmed by a policeman who threatens him if he does not get a cut of the numbers business. One thing for sure is that Rinehart is not invisible; he seems to be known by everyone. Then the narrator discovers that Rinehart has a second identity. He is a preacher at a neighborhood church, where he is loved and respected. The narrator cannot believe that one Rinehart can be so invisible to the other, that he can be a yes man to so many different people. The narrator thinks he suddenly understands the words of his grandfather and decides to use the knowledge to his advantage in the Brother.
The narrator goes to Hambro looking for answers to his confusion, only to
discover that Hambro does not have the answers. Instead, he tells the
narrator that his district must be sacrificed for the good of the larger
purpose. The narrator is infuriated at this idea. He realizes once again
that he has been naïve and foolish to trust the Brotherhood, which
has only used him for their purposes; he resents the fact that he has
been exploited. He resolves to live the kind of life his grandfather warned
him about--the life of a spy, agreeing with the enemy to cloak his underhanded
All Content Copyright©TheBestNotes. All Rights Reserved.
No further distribution without written consent.
3882 Users Online | This page has been viewed 13417 times
This page was last updated on 5/9/2017 8:50:33 AM
Cite this page:
TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Invisible Man".
. 09 May 2017