by Ralph Ellison
Character Role Analysis
Mr. Norton, Dr. Bledsoe, Brother Jack, Ras the Exhorter
Each of these men embodies systems that the narrator comes to oppose throughout the course of the novel. Poor Invisible Man: most protagonists have to fight one antagonist, but our guy gets stuck with four of 'em.
The white philanthropy and liberal-mindedness of Mr. Norton is exposed as mere self-aggrandizement. Dr. Bledsoe is exposed as a self-serving phony who cares little for others of his race. Brother Jack is shown to be a master manipulator who uses race and the narrator for grandiose, abstract purposes. Ras the Exhorter (who the narrator never supported) is a black separatist who condemns any contact with white society.
While each of these men poses significant obstacles in the narrator's life, they also represent larger social ideologies—the men themselves are not significant obstacles, but their ideologies obstruct what the narrator sees as a better, more realistic approach to living. By playing disciple to each of the men in turn (with the exception of Ras), the narrator tries out their ideologies, and, by the end of the novel, comes to reject them all.