Study Guide

Invisible Man Chapter 14

By Ralph Ellison

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Chapter 14

  • The narrator returns to Mary's house and smells cabbage.
  • Hmm… red flag!
  • Mary likes variety in food, but she's been cooking mostly cabbage lately. Clearly, she's running low on funds. The narrator kicks himself for not realizing this earlier.
  • He needs to take the job offer.
  • The narrator calls Brother Jack, who curtly tells him to meet on Lenox Avenue. When he arrives, the narrator is asked to get into a car with Brother Jack and other men. The car goes to a building with the word Chthonian on its front.
  • A woman named Emma greets them at the door and offers them drinks. The narrator is surprised at the way Emma looks at him because it's different from how he's used to being looked at by white women.
  • Brother Jack praises the narrator's speaking abilities to anyone who sits still long enough to listen.
  • The narrator drinks some bourbon.
  • Finally, we get to hear about the Brotherhood.
  • This multiracial organization has a mission: to work towards creating a better world for all those who have been oppressed, including blacks and women.
  • The narrator asks about his specific duties, and Brother Jack compares it to becoming the new Booker T. Washington. He says that the brothers are impressed with the way he started a small revolution at the Provos' earlier that day. They're hungry for more of that.
  • Brother Jack asks the narrator about his living situation, and determines that the narrator needs new housing. Brother Jack says that the Brotherhood has many enemies—it's better not to be in contact with those outside the Brotherhood. He advises the narrator against contacting even his family.
  • The Brotherhood will provide the funds and the secure the narrator's new housing. Emma gives the narrator three hundred dollars to pay Mary and buy new clothes for himself. Brother Jack tells the narrator that he will earn sixty dollars a week (read: a gazillion bucks).
  • Brother Jack has Emma take a piece of paper out from her bosom pocket. This piece of paper has the narrator's new name on it.
  • Do we get to learn what it is? No, we don't.
  • (Grr.)
  • Everyone goes into another room where a lot of people are schmoozing. Brother Jack does a little show-and-tell with the narrator.
  • A short man asks the narrator to sing, saying that he likes the way black people sing.
  • Oh no.
  • Brother Jack is peeved and two guys converge on the short man and drag him into another room. Brother Jack swiftly follows them.
  • The narrator is drunk and amused. A woman comes over and apologizes on behalf of the short man. She thinks his request was very backward.
  • The narrator is confused, figuring that it should be okay for someone to ask him to sing without getting jumped on. After all, he figures, wasn't the short man singing himself? Maybe he didn't mean it in a degrading way.
  • Emma invites the narrator to dance. He dances and drinks and dances some more. He goes home at five in the morning, and is saddened to see that Mary has changed his sheets for him. He will need to leave the next day and doesn't know how he's going to tell her. He can't even give her specifics about his new job, though he thinks she would be proud. He decides it would be best to give her the money in an envelope, and leave without saying bye to her.
  • The narrator goes to bed deciding that his night with the Brotherhood was intriguing, albeit questionable. But if he wants to make it with them, he figures he's going to have to commit.

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