Study Guide

Invisible Man Love

By Ralph Ellison

Love

Prologue

"I dearly loved my master, son," she said.

"You should have hated him," I said.

"He gave me several sons," she said, "and because I loved my sons I learned to love their father though I hated him too."

"I too have become acquainted with ambivalence," I said. "That's why I'm here."
(Prologue.46 – Prologue.49)

This dream sequence from the Prologue illustrates how love and hate are tightly bound.

"Freedom," I said. "Maybe freedom lies in hating."

"Naw, son, it's in loving. I loved him and give him the poison and he withered away like a frost-bit apple. Them boys woulda tore him to pieces with they homemade knives."
(Prologue.61-2)

The old lady in the dream sequence says that she was free enough to kill someone she loved, suggesting that freedom has more to do with love than hate.

Chapter 2
Narrator

I returned the miniature, wondering what in the world had made him open his heart to me. That was something I never did; it was dangerous. First, it was dangerous if you felt like that about anything, because then you'd never get it or something or someone would take it away from you; then it was dangerous because nobody would understand you and they'd only laugh and think you were crazy. (2.65)

The narrator does not express love for anything because it endangers the very thing he cares about.

Chapter 9
Narrator

Perhaps everyone loved someone; I didn't know, I couldn't give much thought to love; in order to travel far you had to be detached, and I had a long road back to the campus before me. (9.51)

At this point in the novel, love is not part of the narrator's life because he believes it would interfere with his ambition. Later, this turns out to not be the case.

Epilogue
Narrator

And I defend because in spite of all I find that I love. In order to get some of it down I have to love. I sell you no phony forgiveness, I'm a desperate man – but too much of your life will be lost, its meaning lost, unless you approach it as much through love as through hate. So I approach it through division so I denounce and I defend and I hate and I love. (Epilogue.28)

Although the narrator could easily be in a place of anger and hate by the end of the novel, he realizes in telling his story that it needs to be approached through both love and hate.