Study Guide

Invisible Man Ideology

By Ralph Ellison

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Invisible Man promotes a political philosophy of appealing to the emotional individual. It rejects all forms of ideology, arguing that ideology misses the trees for the forest, so to speak (in other words, the idea that ideology focuses too much on the collective at the expense of the individual). Several forms of black politics are depicted in the novel, including conservative progress, black nationalism, and communism.

Questions About Ideology

  1. How would you describe the invisible man's political ideology? One way to approach this question is to think about his differences from the Brotherhood—what does the Brotherhood chastise him for?
  2. How does race intersect with politics and ideology in Invisible Man?
  3. How does the narrator's style of political organizing and speech-making differ from that of the Brotherhood?
  4. In the Introduction, Ellison writes, "Here it would seem that the interests of art and democracy converge, the development of conscious articulate citizens being an established goal of this democratic society, and the creation of conscious, articulate characters being indispensable to the creation of resonant compositional centers through which an organic consistency can be achieved in the fashioning of fictional forms." What do you make of that? Did Ellison succeed with Invisible Man? Or do you disagree with his vision of how art and democracy must intersect?

Chew on This

The narrator cares more for individuals than the Brotherhood, and that is the irreconcilable disagreement between them.

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