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.
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.
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.
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.
Cite this page:
TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Invisible Man".
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