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Invisible Man

Invisible Man

  

by Ralph Ellison

Analysis: Writing Style

Jazzy

A life-long lover of jazz, Ellison conceived of Invisible Man as jazz's literary equivalent. Even the idea of "invisibility," which is a sight-based (rather than sound-based) concept gets compared to jazz:

Perhaps I like Louis Armstrong because he's made poetry out of being invisible. I think it must be because he's unaware that he is invisible. And my own grasp of invisibility aids me to understand his music. [...] Invisibility, let me explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, you're never quite on the beat. Sometimes you're ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around. That's what you hear vaguely in Louis' music. (Prologue.8)

By turns sad, playful, shy, loud, fast-paced, drawing on different styles and traditions of writing, weaving constant refrains throughout the book, and creating a whole new aesthetic. The novel doesn't just have a style; it has styles.

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