Study Guide

Invisible Man Chapter 9

By Ralph Ellison

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Chapter 9

  • The narrator goes to Mr. Emerson's office. Along the way to get breakfast at a diner, he passes a man with a cartful of blueprints singing a song about a wild woman. The man, wearing Charlie Chaplin pants, asks him whether he has the "dog."
  • Huh? The narrator rolls with it for a little bit, and the man explains that he picks up the blueprints from a company that ended up not needing them for city buildings.
  • The narrator is against this kind of flexibility. "If you have a plan, you ought to stick to it!" he says.
  • When the narrator leaves the Chaplin man, the man is singing about his love for a woman with different animal parts.
  • Hot… or not? The narrator is confused. How could the Chaplin man love someone so repulsive? Did everyone love someone?
  • He goes into the diner and the man at the counter asks if he'd like the special. The special involves pork chops and grits, and the narrator is insulted that the man would just label him as a Southerner. He defiantly orders orange juice, coffee, and toast instead. Rebel!
  • The narrator thinks of rumors he heard of the North and of Dr. Bledsoe. He now admires Dr. Bledsoe for being able to schmooze with the trustees.
  • When the narrator leaves the diner, he sees the waiter serving pork chops and grits to a blond man. And we all learn a lesson about assumptions.
  • The narrator gets to Mr. Emerson's office, which is colorfully decorated with items from all over the world. There are birds in a cage. He hands the letter over to the man in front, whom he assumes to be the secretary.
  • The narrator thinks of the museum at school, which contains items from the days of slavery. He never liked to look at them much, preferring the photos from after the Civil War.
  • The male secretary takes the narrator into a room and converses with him. He asks him about his intentions for continuing education and for his plans after graduation. The narrator wants to become Dr. Bledsoe's assistant. There is clearly something on this guy's mind but the narrator doesn't really get it.
  • Turns out the secretary is Mr. Emerson's son, though he would prefer it to be otherwise. He has read the letter and is enraged by Dr. Bledsoe and what he has done to the narrator. He tries to explain to the narrator that he should never return to school, and instead make something of himself up North.
  • Emerson asks if the narrator believes they can speak honestly with each other. The narrator doubts the man's intentions and continues pleading to see the elder Emerson.
  • The young Emerson tells the narrator that they are both victims of tyranny, and in order for him to help the narrator, he must disillusion him.
  • The narrator gets increasingly upset.
  • As a last resort, the young Emerson hands the narrator the letter. The narrator reads it. The letter requests Mr. Emerson to continue giving the narrator hope of returning to the college—and it also assures Mr. Emerson that the narrator will never be welcome back at the school.
  • The narrator is completely shocked and young Emerson makes repeated offers of help. He notes that his father would consider his actions extreme treason. Finally, before the narrator has shut the door, young Emerson recommends that he look for a job at Liberty Paints.
  • The narrator gets onto a bus and hears a man whistling a familiar tune about a Robin who gets tied to a tree stump and then gets its unfortunate rump plucked of its feathers. The narrator laughs in a terrible way, and compares himself to the song's Robin. He hopes that the young Emerson was full of it, but he realizes that the letter is proof. He now wants to kill Bledsoe.
  • The narrator calls Liberty Paints and gets himself a job to start the next day.
  • He swears revenge.

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