Study Guide

Invisible Man Race

By Ralph Ellison

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While most the narrator's difficulties throughout the novel are associated with his race, Invisible Man is a novel aimed at transcending race and all the other ways humanity has used to categorize people. For a long time, the narrator's identity is defined by his race, leading to his invisibility.

Questions About Race

  1. To what extent is the narrator's sense of self bound to a racial identity?
  2. In the beginning of the novel, the narrator writes a speech praising humility as the key to black progress. In the novel, what winds up being problematic about this formulation? What actually does end up being the key to black progress?
  3. What is the Brotherhood's attitude towards race? Why does the narrator at first accept it, then later reject it?
  4. Emerson compares himself to Huck and the narrator to Jim. What is the significance of such a comparison? In what ways is it accurate or inaccurate?

Chew on This

Invisible Man defines race as simply one of many other categories that prevents people from truly interacting.

Rather than seeing any particular ideology as securing black progress, Invisible Man argues that only by seeing one another as individuals (instead of as part of a racial collective) can everyone improve their positions in life.

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