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Invisible Man

Invisible Man

  

by Ralph Ellison

Dr. Bledsoe

Character Analysis

Dr. Bledsoe is the president of the narrator's college, and the narrator looks up to him until he turns out to be a big fat phony. While Dr. Bledsoe preaches a doctrine of hard work and humility as the key to black advancement, he retains his power as president of the college by pandering to white people's expectations of how he should behave—he scrapes, bows, and all the while deceives the powerful white men upon whose patronage his power depends:

"He ordered you. Dammit, white folk are always giving orders, it's a habit with them. Why didn't you make an excuse? Couldn't you say they had sickness – smallpox – or picked another cabin? Why that Trueblood shack? My God, boy! You're black and living in the South – did you forget how to lie?" (6.24)

Dr. Bledsoe's supposed commitment to his race is a sham; at one point he declares that he would see every black man in the country lynched before he would give up his position of authority:

You're nobody, son. You don't exist – can't you see that? The white folk tell everybody what to think – except men like me. I tell them; that's my life, telling white folk how to think about the things I know about… But you listen to me: I didn't make it, and I know that I can't change it. But I've made my place in it and I'll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am. (6.76)

To say that the character of Dr. Bledsoe is "compromised" would be the understatement of the dang century.

Dr. Bledsoe Timeline
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