by Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man Chapter 21 Summary
- The narrator goes back to the office but can't bring himself to tell anyone about Clifton. He brings out the Sambo toy and realizes that Clifton made it dance with an invisible black string. The narrator regrets not intervening, thinking he could have gotten in a fight with Clifton and saved his life.
- The narrator decides to organize a public funeral for Clifton. He decides not to mention the Sambo dolls.
- Some young Brotherhood members who worked with Clifton enter and ask the narrator whether Clifton really is dead. They are stunned with sadness.
- It's a hot Saturday afternoon. The funeral draws in a huge crowd, including old members of the Brotherhood the narrator hadn't seen since his departure from Harlem.
- There are banners and signs that read "Brother Tod Clifton, Our hope shot down." There is a drum corps as well as a band. The funeral makes its way around Harlem and stops for the ceremony in a park.
- The narrator wonders about people's motives for attending the funeral.
- An old man begins to sing "There's Many a Thousand Gone." A man begins to play a euphonium. Clifton's friends carry his coffin forward. The crowd is clearly moved.
- The narrator realizes too late that he's supposed to give a speech. He doesn't really have anything specific to say, so he just tells people to go home. He wants his speech to be political, but it turns out to be more passionate.
- Afterwards, the narrator feels an energy about him—in the way people are looking at him.
- He goes to Clifton's burial.
- The narrator walks the streets, realizing that the people's energy needs to be channeled into use. Clifton's death stirred something, and that something needs an outlet.
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