by Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man Chapter 25 Summary
- Harlem is in the midst of being torn apart. People are flinging things into store windows, stores are being looted, and groups of people are running in the streets. Some people are firing guns, and before he knows it, the narrator is hit in the face. A less fortunate guy is killed right next to him.
- The narrator falls in with two guys named Dupre and Scofield. They debrief him on the situation, which consists of mainly, "Hey, Ras the Exhorter is now Ras the Destroyer!" They've all stolen stuff, and they think that the narrator has stolen a briefcase full of stuff, too. Suddenly the narrator remembers that Mary's bank is still in his briefcase.
- The narrator sees a big lady on the top of a milk wagon, drunk and still drinking, sloshing milk and beer all over the streets. The narrator is saddened by this sight.
- They go into a store and loot flashlights and batteries. Then they fill buckets with kerosene oil. The narrator follows them to the tenement building they live in. Dupre tells him the plan is to get all of the people out of the building, then to cover the place with kerosene oil and watch it burn. Scofield is the narrator's partner on the same floor, and they run down the stairs after lighting the match.
- Everything's cool until the narrator realizes he left his briefcase in the building. He runs back through the flames to retrieve it.
- When he gets outside, a lady calls him by his Brotherhood name. Someone else in the crowd hears the name and claims that Ras wants him. The narrator disappears into the crowd. He wonders why the Brotherhood had called him if the state of Harlem was already past rationalization.
- The narrator runs into Scofield again. He helps a bleeding man by tightening a tie used as a tourniquet. A boy thinks he is a doctor.
- The narrator and Scofield run as police officers in white helmets parade down the streets. People fling bricks down at them from the rooftops. The police shoot and Scofield pulls out his own weapon.
- A couple nearby talks about the apparent race riot. This triggers something in the narrator's head. He begins to wonder if this was what the Brotherhood has been planning the entire time. Maybe the Brotherhood was doing less with the Harlem community in order to push them into Ras's hands, thereby starting a race riot. The narrator figures it will all end up with gunfire on the white man's side. He's sickened by the thought of having been a part of it all.
- The narrator continues running, muttering to himself that the Brotherhood will pay. He continues to run until he sees a white lady hanging by a lamppost. He freaks out and sees a lot of white female bodies hanging above him. Then he realizes that they're mannequins. But he can't be sure. He thinks of Sybil and continues to run.
- Ras the Destroyer is dressed as an Abyssinian king, hitting the streets and calling for people to stop looting and start fighting with him. He advises that all people follow him to the armory to get firearms.
- The narrator reaches in his briefcase for his Rinehart glasses, but the lenses fall out.
- When the narrator is found in Ras's presence, Ras throws a spear at him, misses, and hits a mannequin instead. The narrator denies being one of the brothers, saying that they used him, just as they used Ras without him knowing it. Ras calls for the crowd to capture him and hang him.
- The narrator grabs the spear from above him and throws it into Ras's face, lodging it through both cheeks and rendering his jaw useless. The crowd follows him as he runs; he figures they don't shoot him because they're set on hanging him.
- Suddenly, there's a rush of water and the sound of hooves as a police officer approaches on horse. The narrator can only think of going to Mary's house for safety.
- He hears two people talking about Ras and how he fought off the police with his shield, spear, and gun.
- The narrator runs to find Jack, calling him only Jack now, not Brother Jack. Some guys try to stop him and ask what is in his briefcase.
- The narrator falls down a manhole, landing in a mountain of coal. It is pitch black after the boys cover the manhole.
- The narrator sleeps and sleeps. When he wakes up, he finds a matchbook containing three matchsticks that the boys dropped. He burns the only papers he's got, starting with his diploma and then Clifton's doll. When he pulls out the anonymous letter (the one which said he should not become arrogant), he sees that it matches the handwriting of his Brotherhood name.
- He realizes both were written by Jack, posing as a black man.
- The narrator screams, causing the coal to cascade down. He continues rolling down with the coal, enraged at how he's been played.
- The narrator dreams that Brother Jack, Mr. Norton, and Dr. Bledsoe are working against him to hold him down and dig out his eyeballs, flinging them into the surrounding black water. Instead, the eyeballs get caught on the bridge and drip red into the water. Still, the narrator holds his own. The bridge starts moving away like a machine, and the narrator calls it back.
- When the narrator wakes, he realizes that he cannot go back to Mary's house or return anywhere else. Things are different now. Now he knows more, he needs a plan.
- Until he figures out a plan, he'll live in his hole.
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