Study Guide

Invisible Man Chapter 3

By Ralph Ellison

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Chapter 3

  • The narrator drives the car over to the Golden Day, which, along with being a bar, also happens to be an insane asylum. (Two in one!)
  • Before he gets there, the narrator cringes upon seeing the veterans go marching by. He is embarrassed for Mr. Norton to see this. The narrator is familiar enough to know how the veterans work, so he tells the sergeant that Mr. Norton is a war general, a certain General Pershing. The narrator explains to Mr. Norton that the men are shell-shocked vets.
  • The narrator rushes to get Mr. Norton a drink not only to appease his charge but because he wants to get to the bar before Crazy Hour, which is likely the Golden Day's version of Happy Hour. He knows that girls are visiting the patients today, so morale will be up.
  • The narrator rushes into the bar and asks Halley, the bartender, for a double shot of whiskey. Halley refuses to dispense alcohol outside of the premise. The narrator must bring Mr. Norton inside.
  • The narrator encounters many interesting characters in the ward/bar. He marvels at the previous occupations of the patients, since among them were high-status ones such as doctor, lawyer, or teacher.
  • When the narrator returns to the car, he sees that Mr. Norton is no longer conscious, so he rushes once more into the bar, desperately asking for whiskey. Once again, Halley refuses.
  • One of the guys, Sylvester, offers to go help the narrator. They drag Mr. Norton inside the bar. Someone mistakes Mr. Norton for Thomas Jefferson. Another person comes up and slaps Mr. Norton in the face.
  • The narrator gets some whiskey into Mr. Norton. Mr. Norton wakes up and asks questions about the Golden Day. One of the vets tells him about his theory on the cycle of racial power, conclusively announcing that the black man will have his day again.
  • Supercargo, the attendant in charge who sets the patients straight, steps out from the upstairs room where sexytimes are going on, and yells to know what's going on. He demands order, especially when he hears that there's a white person in the room.
  • Some of the patients run up the stairs to tackle Supercargo, but Supercargo has the upper hand, literally, and kicks all of them back down. Uh oh.
  • Pandemonium ensues.
  • People throw liquor bottles up at the balcony; one hits Supercargo in the face. Some patients succeed in grabbing his feet and they drag him down the stairs. They get him down and start kicking him even when his ribs start bleeding. They pour beer on him so he's covered in blood and beer. They lay him down on the bar.
  • In the chaos, the narrator loses sight of Mr. Norton. He finds the millionaire lying underneath a stairwell, unconscious again. Shaking him, the narrator experiences a moment of panic at being so physically close to a white man.
  • The short fat man comes and tells the narrator that a white man is only a man still. He helps the narrator pull Mr. Norton upstairs.
  • The vet turns out to be a medical professional… and a patient at the Golden Day, which should make for some interesting diagnoses.
  • The vet runs some tests on Mr. Norton. Some of the prostitutes gather around Mr. Norton and discuss him, as well as the size of his balls.
  • The narrator goes downstairs to get some ice for Mr. Norton, wanting him to awaken so they can return to school.
  • Mr. Norton wakes up. The narrator is worried of what Mr. Norton will think of the situation. Being in an insane asylum/bar and surrounded by prostitutes probably doesn't happen to Mr. Norton very often. The narrator gets him a drink of water, and returns to find that Mr. Norton is impressed with the vet's accurate diagnosis. The vet explains that he studied in college to become a physician. Then, during the war, he lived in France with the Army Medical Corps and remained there to study and practice medicine after the war.
  • Mr. Norton would like to stay and listen to the vet's story (what is this man's obsession with storytime?!), but the narrator is itching to get Mr. Norton out of the place.
  • The vet wants the narrator to stay and listen to his story, thinking it will benefit him in his life. The vet explains that he got ulcers and realized that no matter what scientific breakthroughs he made, he would not get the proper respect he deserved. He said he got beat up for having the ability and know-how to save people. How's that for a thank you?
  • The narrator is afraid of the freedom with which the vet is talking to Mr. Norton.
  • The vet criticizes the narrator for his invisibility, saying that he has all the senses but cannot appreciate the vet's story. The vet says that it is appropriate that Mr. Norton and the narrator arrived at the Golden Day together because neither of them is aware of actual circumstances.
  • The vet talks until he is upset and orders the narrator and Mr. Norton to leave.
  • The crowd is still rowdy, especially with the reappearance of the narrator and Mr. Norton. The narrator makes it outside and realizes that Mr. Norton is not with him. Halley pushes him out, but Mr. Norton has pulled his incredible fainting act and gone unconscious again. Halley thinks he has died, but Mr. Norton regains consciousness.
  • Mr. Norton and the narrator return to the school.

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