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[1 of 5] Invisible Man, Prologue to Chapter 5, by Ralph Ellison (1947)

Author: Ralph Ellison

“Prologue to Chapter 5.” Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, Random House, 1952.

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“You are saved,” cried Captain Delano, more and more astonished and pained;
“you are saved: what has cast such a shadow upon you?”
–Herman Melville, Benito Cereno

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HARRY: I tell you, it is not me you are looking at,
Not me you are grinning at, not me your confidential looks
Incriminate, but that other person, if person,
You thought I was: let your necrophily
Feed upon that carcase. . .
–T. S. Eliot, Family Reunion

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Prologue

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I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 8:37AM) : Opening of INVISIBLE MAN (Mr. Hankins from Room 407) more

Aristotle asserted that all issues can be reduced to BLAME, CHOICE, and VALUES. In making his claim of invisibility, the protagonist posits some responsibility (BLAME) for his condition upon others.

Responsibility becomes a operating word/theme in the early part of the book.

“Simply because people refuse to see me.”

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Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a bio-chemical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves. Then too, you’re constantly being bumped against by those of poor vision. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren’t simply a phantom in other people’s minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy. It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it’s seldom successful.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 8:40AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): "The peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come into contact." more

The protagonist spends some time here talking about eyes, and vision, and visual acuity (and perhaps perception). These become central to the prologue in presenting the how of the protagonist’s “invisibility.” We, the reader, understand that this is the not the science-fiction notion of “becoming or being invisible” but rather a social construct that might lend to a social theme.

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Jan 20
Ana M (Jan 20 2021 12:29PM) : Now more

It is like even now, in 2021, many may feel this way. Everywhere we have students and teachers that have no connection with one another. I see this phrase and can see how this sentence plays into last year and this year.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 8:41AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407) "The Aching to Exist" more

Here the protagonist seems to suggest that his invisibility is not a CHOICE as might be indicated by Aristotle and so he seems to be in pain for the need to be recognized by others.

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Jan 20
Ana M (Jan 20 2021 12:02PM) : Building of a theme more

From the beginning a theme is being built up. For the narrator states clearly that they are invisible. This plays into the title of the book as well. The book title being “Invisible Man”. For no name is revealed and why would a name be revealed?

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One night I accidentally bumped into a man, and perhaps because of the near darkness he saw me and called me an insulting name. I sprang at him, seized his coat lapels and demanded that he apologize. He was a tall blond man, and as my face came close to his he looked insolently out of his blue eyes and cursed me, his breath hot in my face as he struggled. I pulled his chin down sharp upon the crown of my head, butting him as I had seen the West Indians do, and I felt his flesh tear and the blood gush out, and I yelled, “Apologize! Apologize!” But he continued to curse and struggle, and I butted him again and again until he went down heavily, on his knees, profusely bleeding. I kicked him repeatedly, in a frenzy because he still uttered insults though his lips were frothy with blood. Oh yes, I kicked him! And in my outrage I got out my knife and prepared to slit his throat, right there beneath the lamplight in the deserted street, holding him by the collar with one hand, and opening the knife with my teeth — when it occurred to me that the man had not seen me, actually; that he, as far as he knew, was in the midst of a walking nightmare! And I stopped the blade, slicing the air as I pushed him away, letting him fall back to the street. I stared at him hard as the lights of a car stabbed through the darkness. He lay there, moaning on the asphalt; a man almost killed by a phantom. It unnerved me. I was both disgusted and ashamed. I was like a drunken man myself, wavering about on weakened legs. Then I was amused. Something in this man’s thick head had sprung out and beaten him within an inch of his life. I began to laugh at this crazy discovery. Would he have awakened at the point of death? Would Death himself have freed him for wakeful living? But I didn’t linger. I ran away into the dark, laughing so hard I feared I might rupture myself. The next day I saw his picture in the Daily News, beneath a caption stating that he had been “mugged.” Poor fool, poor blind fool, I thought with sincere compassion, mugged by an invisible man!

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Feb 3
Tristan M (Feb 03 2021 10:53AM) : conflict between the invisible man and the the tall blond men [Edited] more

on my opinion I think that the problem comes from the invisible man, although the tall blond man used insulting names but the invisible man also acted badly as he directly used violence to get some apologies from the man but this only went to a worst situation which almost caused the death of the tall blond man

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Feb 10
Isabella H (Feb 10 2021 9:49PM) : confusion more

I was honestly so lost in this paragraph, I did not understand if it was some sort of dream(kinda like Freddy Kruger), if the man was actually invisible like some super hero, or lastly if he was just a guy who felt invisible to the world but was not actually invisible. So that kinda started me off on a bad note with the book already struggling to understand it.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 8:55AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): The Incident at Night more

The protagonist spends some time here describing an incident in which he bumped into or was bumped into by another figure at night. The resulting actions and descriptions are most likely the result of the aching and frustration described earlier within the prologue.

Watch this “bumping.” A later incident in the book will also feature a “bumping” that is unsettling to the protagonist as he enters into the Belly of the Whale.

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Feb 2
Tristan M (Feb 02 2021 11:13AM) : He is antisocial. [Edited] more

I think he is antisocial because he is rejected by society, as in general they don’t want to see him and they are insulting to him.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 8:57AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Media/Current Events Connection more

Notice the protagonist’s account and the person’s account and the “reporting” by the Daily News here. In media studies we might call this “framing” of the story that can be realized by DICTION or word choice of the one reporting.

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Jan 20
Jessica O (Jan 20 2021 11:25AM) : Invisibility more

The invisibility of the narrator is not something that is “supernatural.” It is because he is black in a time where people who were back were mistreated or seen as less valuable than people with lighter skin, he was overlooked, therefore, invisible

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Most of the time (although I do not choose as I once did to deny the violence of my days by ignoring it) I am not so overtly violent. I remember that I am invisible and walk softly so as not to awaken the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers. I learned in time though that it is possible to carry on a fight against them without their realizing it. For instance, I have been carrying on a fight with Monopolated Light & Power for some time now. I use their service and pay them nothing at all, and they don’t know it. Oh, they suspect that power is being drained off, but they don’t know where. All they know is that according to the master meter back there in their power station a hell of a lot of free current is disappearing somewhere into the jungle of Harlem. The joke, of course, is that I don’t live in Harlem but in a border area. Several years ago (before I discovered the advantage of being invisible) I went through the routine process of buying service and paying their outrageous rates. But no more. I gave up all that, along with my apartment, and my old way of life: That way based upon the fallacious assumption that I, like other men, was visible. Now, aware of my invisibility, I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century, which I discovered when I was trying to escape in the night from Ras the Destroyer. But that’s getting too far ahead of the story, almost to the end, although the end is in the beginning and lies far ahead.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 8:58AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Sleeping and Awakening more

Note the protagonist’s comment suggesting a sort of personal responsibilty in light of his invisibility. There is commentary here on awakening and sleep-walking. Tied to the protagonist’s prior descriptions of his condition and how it is created and sustained, we may see a Social Theme beginning to emerge as early as the prologue.

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Jan 20
Trey K (Jan 20 2021 10:56PM) : Not an answer, but more of a Comment more

I think it is very interesting that you bring this up because the narrator is most obviously talking from the point after the “story” of the book. It is more wisdom based as if this is what he took from experiencing years of invisibility. And it foreshadows what his grandfather was saying. I get the same “kill them with kindness” vibe in his answers, and again, this is far from the narrator we maybe seen so far in the book. And I love the quote, “Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.” This takes on so many meanings that I’ll leave it for you all to find…….. but come on Mr. Hankins, leave politics out of room 407 lol.

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The point now is that I found a home — or a hole in the ground, as you will. Now don’t jump to the conclusion that because I call my home a “hole” it is damp and cold like a grave; there are cold holes and warm holes. Mine is a warm hole. And remember, a bear retires to his hole for the winter and lives until spring; then he comes strolling out like the Easter chick breaking from its shell. I say all this to assure you that it is incorrect to assume that, because I’m invisible and live in a hole, I am dead. I am neither dead nor in a state of suspended animation. Call me Jack-the-Bear, for I am in a state of hibernation.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 9:00AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Home is Where the Heart Is more

Watch how the protagonist describes his home and how careful he is to assure the reader the state and the maintenance of the space.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 9:01AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Protagonist Clarification Here more

As a reader, I think that it is an interesting insertion here that the protagonist does not want to lead the reader into a symobolic idea of his state. He is. . .literally in a hole. Not one you might imagine or liken to death. A hole.

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Jan 21
Grahm K (Jan 21 2021 9:34PM) : Addition to the thought more

The protagonist relates his state to a hibernation. Maybe this is foreshadowing to a sort of “spring time” or turn in the book where he no longer becomes invisible to everybody, but hypervisible because of something he does r something that happens to him.

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My hole is warm and full of light. Yes, full of light. I doubt if there is a brighter spot in all New York than this hole of mine, and I do not exclude Broadway. Or the Empire State Building on a photographer’s dream night. But that is taking advantage of you. Those two spots are among the darkest of our whole civilization — pardon me, our whole culture (an important distinction, I’ve heard) — which might sound like a hoax, or a contradiction, but that (by contradiction, I mean) is how the world moves: Not like an arrow, but a boomerang. (Beware of those who speak of the spiral of history; they are preparing a boomerang. Keep a steel helmet handy.)

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 9:03AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Light more

Here we might look at light as a symbol. As an archetypal symbol. There is a lot of mention of light happening here. How does it work? What does the protagonist let us see? What do we wonder? What do we want to know more about?

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I know; I have been boomeranged across my head so much that I now can see the darkness of lightness. And I love light. Perhaps you’ll think it strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light. But maybe it is exactly because I am invisible. Light confirms my reality, gives birth to my form. A beautiful girl once told me of a recurring nightmare in which she lay in the center of a large dark room and felt her face expand until it filled the whole room, becoming a formless mass while her eyes ran in bilious jelly up the chimney. And so it is with me. Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility.

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Jan 20
Jessica O (Jan 20 2021 11:27AM) : Light more

Light is obviously very important to the narrator. He sees it as a way to remind himself that he is alive and real in a world that treats him as if he is not

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Feb 3
Jessica H (Feb 03 2021 10:00AM) : Interpretation more

I read this as the bad side of whiteness, the whiteness which has always been legitimized as “correct”.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 9:05AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Further Comment on Light more

The protagonist speaks further on the idea of light and how it offers form. What does this comment on light suggest to what we keep in the dark? What is lost?

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Jan 26
Autumn F (Jan 26 2021 10:49AM) : Further Comment on Light more

I believe that what is lost during the light is that you can suddenly see the flaws in everyday society. What is lost is the boundaries set because the lightness overshines the darkness.

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That is why I fight my battle with Monopolated Light & Power. The deeper reason, I mean: It allows me to feel my vital aliveness. I also fight them for taking so much of my money before I learned to protect myself. In my hole in the basement there are exactly 1,369 lights. I’ve wired the entire ceiling, every inch of it. And not with fluorescent bulbs, but with the older, more-expensive-to-operate kind, the filament type. An act of sabotage, you know. I’ve already begun to wire the wall. A junk man I know, a man of vision, has supplied me with wire and sockets. Nothing, storm or flood, must get in the way of our need for light and ever more and brighter light. The truth is the light and light is the truth. When I finish all four walls, then I’ll start on the floor. Just how that will go, I don’t know. Yet when you have lived invisible as long as I have you develop a certain ingenuity. I’ll solve the problem. And maybe I’ll invent a gadget to place my coffeepot on the fire while I lie in bed, and even invent a gadget to warm my bed — like the fellow I saw in one of the picture magazines who made himself a gadget to warm his shoes! Though invisible, I am in the great American tradition of tinkers. That makes me kin to Ford, Edison and Franklin. Call me, since I have a theory and a concept, a “thinker-tinker.” Yes, I’ll warm my shoes; they need it, they’re usually full of holes. I’ll do that and more.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 11:51AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Monopolated Light & Power. more

Note the name of our company here as something working on a symbolic level. Early (quick) research reveals this is a fictional name given to the company by the author, Ellison. So. . .how does this work. Light? And Power? And the fact that our protagonist is siphoning off some of both to accommodate his life and living within the hole that he has seemingly self-selected?

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 11:57AM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Something Akin to a Theme? more

The truth is the light and the light is the truth. What might this mean archetypally? What or whose truth? What does the light do to affect this truth? What does the truth do to illuminate _________? While the balance of this idea presents very nicely and is memorable for its chiasmus, what does it really mean as a potential theme?

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Now I have one radio-phonograph; I plan to have five. There is a certain acoustical deadness in my hole, and when I have music I want to feel its vibration, not only with my ear but with my whole body. I’d like to hear five recordings of Louis Armstrong playing and singing “What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue” — all at the same time. Sometimes now I listen to Louis while I have my favorite dessert of vanilla ice cream and sloe gin. I pour the red liquid over the white mound, watching it glisten and the vapor rising as Louis bends that military instrument into a beam of lyrical sound. Perhaps I like Louis Armstrong because he’s made poetry out of being invisible. I think it must be because he’s unaware that he is invisible. And my own grasp of invisibility aids me to understand his music. Once when I asked for a cigarette, some jokers gave me a reefer, which I lighted when I got home and sat listening to my phonograph. It was a strange evening. Invisibility, let me explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, you’re never quite on the beat. Sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around. That’s what you hear vaguely in Louis’ music.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 12:00PM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): When I Have Music more

The protagonist is preparing to take us into a Louis Armstrong standard, (What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue?

How does the space allow the music to fill?

How does the light/illumination/truth present the music in a way that creates the illusion to come?

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Feb 3
Jessica H (Feb 03 2021 10:33AM) : Definition more

For younger readers, reefer is an older term for weed/marijuana.

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Once I saw a prizefighter boxing a yokel. The fighter was swift and amazingly scientific. His body was one violent flow of rapid rhythmic action. He hit the yokel a hundred times while the yokel held up his arms in stunned surprise. But suddenly the yokel, rolling about in the gale of boxing gloves, struck one blow and knocked science, speed and footwork as cold as a well-digger’s posterior. The smart money hit the canvas. The long shot got the nod. The yokel had simply stepped inside of his opponent’s sense of time. So under the spell of the reefer I discovered a new analytical way of listening to music. The unheard sounds came through, and each melodic line existed of itself, stood out clearly from all the rest, said its piece, and waited patiently for the other voices to speak. That night I found myself hearing not only in time, but in space as well. I not only entered the music but descended, like Dante, into its depths. And beneath the swiftness of the hot tempo there was a slower tempo and a cave and I entered it and looked around and heard an old woman singing a spiritual as full of Weltschmerz as flamenco, and beneath that lay a still lower level on which I saw a beautiful girl the color of ivory pleading in a voice like my mother’s as she stood before a group of slave owners who bid for her naked body, and below that I found a lower level and a more rapid tempo and I heard someone shout:

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Feb 3
Jessica H (Feb 03 2021 10:36AM) : Observation more

He seems to be using a 1-to-1 relationship between the words “Blackness” and “invisibility”, between “Black” and “invisible”, such that the title could read, “The Black Man”.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 12:02PM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): That Night Listening to Armstrong more

The next portion of the text conjures up a scene in the mind of a protagonist alone in his hole with nothing but his music. Watch as the scene unfolds to see what is revealed in the sub-conscious of our protagonist. Music. Traditions. Hurts. Revelations. Protections.

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“Brothers and sisters, my text this morning is the ‘Blackness of Blackness.’ “M
And a congregation of voices answered: “That blackness is most black, brother, most black . . .
“In the beginning . . .”
“At the very start,” they cried.
“. . . there was blackness . . .”
“Preach it . . .”
“. . . and the sun . . .”” The sun, Lawd . . .”
“. . . was bloody red . . .”
“Red . . .”
“Now black is . . .” the preacher shouted.
“Bloody . . .”
“I said black is . . .”
“Preach it, brother . . .”
“. . . an’ black ain’t . .
“Red, Lawd, red: He said it’s red!”
“Amen, brother . . .”
“Black will git you . . .”
“Yes, it will . . .”
“. . . an’ black won’t . . .”
“Naw, it won’t!”
“It do . . .”
“It do, Lawd . . .”
“. . . an’ it don’t.”
“Halleluiah . . .”
“. . . It’ll put you, glory, glory, Oh my Lawd, in the WHALE’S BELLY.”
“Preach it, dear brother . . .”
“. . . an’ make you tempt . . .” “Good God a-mighty!”
“Old Aunt Nelly!”
“Black will make you . . .” “Black . . .”
“. . . or black will un-make you.”
“Ain’t it the truth, Lawd?”
And at that point a voice of trombone timbre screamed at me, “Git out of, here, you fool! Is you ready to commit treason?” And I tore myself away, hearing the old singer of spirituals moaning,
“Go curse your God, boy, and die.”
I stopped and questioned her, asked her what was wrong.
“I dearly loved my master, son,” she said.
“You should have hated him,” I said.
“He gave me several sons,” she said, “and because I loved my sons I learned to love their father though I hated him too.”
“I too have become acquainted with ambivalence,” I said. “That’s why I’m here.”
“What’s that?”
“Nothing, a word that doesn’t explain it. Why do you moan?”
“I moan this way ’cause he’s dead,” she said.
“Then tell me, who is that laughing upstairs?”
“Them’s my sons. They glad.”
“Yes, I can understand that too,” I said.
“I laughs too, but I moans too. He promised to set us free but he never could bring hisself to do it. Still I loved him . . .”
“Loved him? You mean . . .”
“Oh yes, but 1 loved something else even more.”
“What more?”
“Freedom.”
“Freedom,” I said. “Maybe freedom lies in hating.”
“Naw, son, it’s in loving. I loved him and give him the poison and he withered away like a frost-bit apple. Them boys woulda tore him to pieces with they homemake knives.” “A mistake was made somewhere,” I said, “I’m confused.” And I wished to say other things, but the laughter upstairs became too loud and moan-like for me and I tried to break out of it, but I couldn’t. Just as I was leaving I felt an urgent desire to ask her what freedom was and went back. She sat with her head in her hands, moaning softly; her leather-brown face was filled with sadness.
“Old woman, what is this freedom you love so well?” I asked around a corner of my mind.
She looked surprised, then thoughtful, then baffled. “I done forgot, son. It’s all mixed up. First I think it’s one thing, then I think it’s another. It gits my head to spinning. I guess now it ain’t nothing but knowing how to say what I got up in my head. But it’s a hard job, son. Too much is done happen to me in too short a time. Hit’s like I have a fever. Ever’ time I starts to walk my head gits to swirling and I falls down. Or if it ain’t that, it’s the boys; they gits to laughing and wants to kill up the white folks. They’s bitter, that’s what they is . . .”
“But what about freedom?”
“Leave me ‘lone, boy; my head aches!”
I left her, feeling dizzy myself. I didn’t get far. Suddenly one of the sons, a big fellow six feet tall, appeared out of nowhere and struck me with his fist. “What’s the matter, man?” I cried.
“You made Ma cry!”
“But how?” I said, dodging a blow.
“Askin’ her them questions, that’s how. Git outa here and stay, and next time you got questions like that, ask yourself!”
He held me in a grip like cold stone, his fingers fastening upon my windpipe until I thought I would suffocate before he finally allowed me to go. I stumbled about dazed, the music beating hysterically in my ears. It was dark. My head cleared and I wandered down a dark narrow passage, thinking I heard his footsteps hurrying behind me. I was sore, and into my being had come a profound craving for tranquillity, for peace and quiet, a state I felt I could never achieve. For one thing, the trumpet was blaring and the rhythm was too hectic. A tomtom beating like heart-thuds began drowning out the trumpet, filling my ears. I longed for water and I heard it rushing through the cold mains my fingers touched as I felt my way, but I couldn’t stop to search because of the footsteps behind me.
“Hey, Ras,” I called. “Is it you, Destroyer? Rinehart?” No answer, only the rhythmic footsteps behind me. Once I tried crossing the road, but a speeding machine struck me, scraping the skin from my leg as it roared past. Then somehow I came out of it, ascending hastily from this underworld of sound to hear Louis Armstrong innocently asking,
What did I do
To be so black
And blue?

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 12:12PM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): Watch This Ineraction for Comment on Freedom and Where It Lies more

Maybe freedom lies in hating.

Naw, son, it’s in loving.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 12:13PM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): End of the Imagined Sequence more

This ends of the imaginative sequence conjured by the Armstrong song.

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At first I was afraid; this familiar music had demanded action, the kind of which I was incapable, and yet had I lingered there beneath the surface I might have attempted to act. Nevertheless, I know now that few really listen to this music. I sat on the chair’s edge in a soaking sweat, as though each of my 1,369 bulbs had everyone become a klieg light in an individual setting for a third degree with Ras and Rinehart in charge. It was exhausting — as though I had held my breath continuously for an hour under the terrifying serenity that comes from days of intense hunger. And yet, it was a strangely satisfying experience for an invisible man to hear the silence of sound. I had discovered unrecognized compulsions of my being — even though I could not answer “yes” to their promptings. I haven’t smoked a reefer since, however; not because they’re illegal, but because to see around corners is enough (that is not unusual when you are invisible). But to hear around them is too much; it inhibits action. And despite Brother Jack and all that sad, lost period of the Brotherhood, I believe in nothing if not in action.

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 12:14PM) : (Mr. Hankins in Room 407): What is a Kleig Light? more

These are powerful lights generally used in film making.

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Please, a definition: A hibernation is a covert preparation for a more overt action.

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Besides, the drug destroys one’s sense of time completely. If that happened, I might forget to dodge some bright morning and some cluck would run me down with an orange and yellow street car, or a bilious bus! Or I might forget to leave my hole when the moment for action presents itself.

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Meanwhile I enjoy my life with the compliments of Monopolated Light & Power. Since you never recognize me even when in closest contact with me, and since, no doubt, you’ll hardly believe that I exist, it won’t matter if you know that I tapped a power line leading into the building and ran it into my hole in the ground. Before that I lived in the darkness into which I was chased, but now I see. I’ve illuminated the blackness of my invisibility — and vice versa. And so I play the invisible music of my isolation. The last statement doesn’t seem just right, does it? But it is; you hear this music simply because music is heard and seldom seen, except by musicians. Could this compulsion to put invisibility down in black and white be thus an urge to make music of invisibility? But I am an orator, a rabble rouser — Am? I was, and perhaps shall be again. Who knows? All sickness is not unto death, neither is invisibility.

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I can hear you say, “What a horrible, irresponsible bastard!” And you’re right. I leap to agree with you. I am one of the most irresponsible beings that ever lived. Irresponsibility is part of my invisibility; any way you face it, it is a denial. But to whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me? And wait until I reveal how truly irresponsible I am. Responsibility rests upon recognition, and recognition is a form of agreement. Take the man whom I almost killed: Who was responsible for that near murder — I? I don’t think so, and I refuse it. I won’t buy it. You can’t give it to me. He bumped me, he insulted me. Shouldn’t he, for his own personal safety, have recognized my hysteria, my “danger potential”? He, let us say, was lost in a dream world. But didn’t he control that dream world — which, alas, is only too real! — and didn’t he rule me out of it? And if he had yelled for a policeman, wouldn’t I have been taken for the offending one? Yes, yes, yes! Let me agree with you, I was the irresponsible one; for I should have used my knife to protect the higher interests of society. Some day that kind of foolishness will cause us tragic trouble. All dreamers and sleepwalkers must pay the price, and even the invisible victim is responsible for the fate of all. But I shirked that responsibility; I became too snarled in the incompatible notions that buzzed within my brain. I was a coward . . .

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But what did I do to be so blue? Bear with me.

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Jan 21
Megan E (Jan 21 2021 1:50AM) : Black and Blue more

I thought it was a nice parallel to the middle of the prologue when the narrator refers to Louis Armstrong’s song “Black and Blue”. I think this parallel gives a unique insight into the narrator’s race. Looking at the narrator question what he did to be so blue makes the audience draw a conclusion that the narrator is African American.

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Jan 21
Kylie R (Jan 21 2021 6:46PM) : Reply more

I also agree that Louis Armstrong’s song shows a special and different perspective into the author’s race. I think it was interesting to add in this and made me want to read into it more.

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Chapter 1

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It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was na?e. I was looking for myself

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and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!

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Feb 3
Jessica H (Feb 03 2021 10:59AM) : Response more

Oh, yes, That is a painful boomerang moment for nearly everyone.

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And yet I am no freak of nature, nor of history. I was in the cards, other things having been equal (or unequal) eighty-five years ago. I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time been ashamed. About eighty-five years ago they were told that they were free, united with others of our country in everything pertaining to the common good, and, in everything social, separate like the fingers of the hand. And they believed it. They exulted in it. They stayed in their place, worked hard, and brought up my father to do the same. But my grandfather is the one. He was an odd old guy, my grandfather, and I am told I take after him. It was he who caused the trouble. On his deathbed he called my father to him and said, “Son, after I’m gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy’s country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion’s mouth. I want you to overcome ’em with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction, let ’em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open.” They thought the old man had gone out of his mind. He had been the meekest of men. The younger children were rushed from the room, the shades drawn and the flame of the lamp turned so low that it sputtered on the wick like the old man’s breathing. “Learn it to the younguns,” he whispered fiercely; then he died.

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Jan 20
Jessica O (Jan 20 2021 11:30AM) : History more

The narrator is not ashamed of the slavery of his grandparents he is mad at himself for being embarrassed. He is mature and understands that the bad things that have happened to his people no fault of his, but of others

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Jan 20
Paul H (Jan 20 2021 11:54AM) : Generations Removed. more

It’s interesting that our protagonist is a generation removed from the social construct of slavery but not the familial influences and messages of the subject that carry over into his life and his responses.

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Jan 21
Megan E (Jan 21 2021 2:02AM) : Kill them with Kindness more

I think the grandfather’s words resemble closely to words given to people dealing with bullying. It makes you think if racism and bullying are the same thing. People are bullied for many reasons and racism is people being bullied for their skin color. I wonder if people today were to hear those words and connect them to racism if our world would be more peaceful.

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Feb 3
Jessica H (Feb 03 2021 11:20AM) : Malicious compliance.
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But my folks were more alarmed over his last words than over his dying. It was as though he had not died at all, his words caused so much anxiety. I was warned emphatically to forget what he had said and, indeed, this is the first time it has been mentioned outside the family circle. It had a tremendous effect upon me, however. I could never be sure of what he meant. Grandfather had been a quiet old man who never made any trouble, yet on his deathbed he had called himself a traitor and a spy, and he had spoken of his meekness as a dangerous activity. It became a constant puzzle which lay unanswered in the back of my mind. And whenever things went well for me I remembered my grandfather and felt guilty and uncomfortable. It was as though I was carrying out his advice in spite of myself. And to make it worse, everyone loved me for it. I was praised by the most lily-white men of the town. I was considered an example of desirable conduct — just as my grandfather had been. And what puzzled me was that the old man had defined it as treachery. When I was praised for my conduct I felt a guilt that in some way I was doing something that was really against the wishes of the white folks, that if they had understood they would have desired me to act just the opposite, that I should have been sulky and mean, and that that really would have been what they wanted, even though they were fooled and thought they wanted me to act as I did. It made me afraid that some day they would look upon me as a traitor and I would be lost. Still I was more afraid to act any other way because they didn’t like that at all. The old man’s words were like a curse. On my graduation day I delivered an oration in which I showed that humility was the secret, indeed, the very essence of progress. (Not that I believed this — how could I, remembering my grandfather? — I only believed that it worked.) It was a great success. Everyone praised me and I was invited to give the speech at a gathering of the town’s leading white citizens. It was a triumph for our whole community.

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It was in the main ballroom of the leading hotel. When I got there I discovered that it was on the occasion of a smoker, and I was told that since I was to be there anyway I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part of the entertainment. The battle royal came first.

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Feb 4
Jessica H (Feb 04 2021 9:51AM) : Definition of “smoker” [Edited] more

In this case, a “smoker” was the name for a pornographic show, either live or filmed.

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Jan 20
Ciara K (Jan 20 2021 4:47PM) : Fighting more

In today’s society, I do not think any of us could imagine a place where many boys would get together and fight each other for others entertainment. I especially could not imagine fighting a bunch of my “schoolmates” either. This goes to show how much society has changed but it still has a lot of changing to do.

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All of the town’s big shots were there in their tuxedoes, wolfing down the buffet foods, drinking beer and whiskey and smoking black cigars. It was a large room with a high ceiling. Chairs were arranged in neat rows around three sides of a portable boxing ring. The fourth side was clear, revealing a gleaming space of polished floor. I had some misgivings over the battle royal, by the way. Not from a distaste for fighting, but because I didn’t care too much for the other fellows who were to take part. They were tough guys who seemed to have no grandfather’s curse worrying their minds. No one could mistake their toughness. And besides, I suspected that fighting a battle royal might detract from the dignity of my speech. In those pre-invisible days I visualized myself as a potential Booker T. Washington. But the other fellows didn’t care too much for me either, and there were nine of them. I felt superior to them in my way, and I didn’t like the manner in which we were all crowded together into the servants’ elevator. Nor did they like my being there. In fact, as the warmly lighted floors flashed past the elevator we had words over the fact that I, by taking part in the fight, had knocked one of their friends out of a night’s work.

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We were led out of the elevator through a rococo hall into an anteroom and told to get into our fighting togs. Each of us was issued a pair of boxing gloves and ushered out into the big mirrored hall, which we entered looking cautiously about us and whispering, lest we might accidentally be heard above the noise of the room. It was foggy with cigar smoke. And already the whiskey was taking effect. I was shocked to see some of the most important men of the town quite tipsy. They were all there — bankers, lawyers, judges, doctors, fire chiefs, teachers, merchants. Even one of the more fashionable pastors. Something we could not see was going on up front. A clarinet was vibrating sensuously and the men were standing up and moving eagerly forward. We were a small tight group, clustered together, our bare upper bodies touching and shining with anticipatory sweat; while up front the big shots were becoming increasingly excited over something we still could not see. Suddenly I heard the school superintendent, who had told me to come, yell, “Bring up the shines, gentlemen! Bring up the little shines!”

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We were rushed up to the front of the ballroom, where it smelled even more strongly of tobacco and whiskey. Then we were pushed into place. I almost wet my pants. A sea of faces, some hostile, some amused, ringed around us, and in the center, facing us, stood a magnificent blonde — stark naked. There was dead silence. I felt a blast of cold air chill me. I tried to back away, but they were behind me and around me. Some of the boys stood with lowered heads, trembling. I felt a wave of irrational guilt and fear. My teeth chattered, my skin turned to goose flesh, my knees knocked. Yet I was strongly attracted and looked in spite of myself. Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. The hair was yellow like that of a circus kewpie doll, the face heavily powdered and rouged, as though to form an abstract mask, the eyes hollow and smeared a cool blue, the color of a baboon’s butt. I felt a desire to spit upon her as my eyes brushed slowly over her body. Her breasts were firm and round as the domes of East Indian temples, and I stood so close as to see the fine skin texture and beads of pearly perspiration glistening like dew around the pink and erected buds of her nipples. I wanted at one and the same time to run from the room, to sink through the floor, or go to her and cover her from my eyes and the eyes of the others with my body; to feel the soft thighs, to caress her and destroy her, to love her and murder her, to hide from her, and yet to stroke where below the small American flag tattooed upon her belly her thighs formed a capital V. I had a notion that of all in the room she saw only me with her impersonal eyes.

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And then she began to dance, a slow sensuous movement; the smoke of a hundred cigars clinging to her like the thinnest of veils. She seemed like a fair bird-girl girdled in veils calling to me from the angry surface of some gray and threatening sea. I was transported. Then I became aware of the clarinet playing and the big shots yelling at us. Some threatened us if we looked and others if we did not. On my right I saw one boy faint. And now a man grabbed a silver pitcher from a table and stepped close as he dashed ice water upon him and stood him up and forced two of us to support him as his head hung and moans issued from his thick bluish lips. Another boy began to plead to go home. He was the largest of the group, wearing dark red fighting trunks much too small to conceal the erection which projected from him as though in answer to the insinuating low-registered moaning of the clarinet. He tried to hide himself with his boxing gloves.

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And all the while the blonde continued dancing, smiling faintly at the big shots who watched her with fascination, and faintly smiling at our fear. I noticed a certain merchant who followed her hungrily, his lips loose and drooling. He was a large man who wore diamond studs in a shirtfront which swelled with the ample paunch underneath, and each time the blonde swayed her undulating hips he ran his hand through the thin hair of his bald head and, with his arms upheld, his posture clumsy like that of an intoxicated panda, wound his belly in a slow and obscene grind. This creature was completely hypnotized. The music had quickened. As the dancer flung herself about with a detached expression on her face, the men began reaching out to touch her. I could see their beefy fingers sink into the soft flesh. Some of the others tried to stop them and she began to move around the floor in graceful circles, as they gave chase, slipping and sliding over the polished floor. It was mad. Chairs went crashing, drinks were spilt, as they ran laughing and howling after her. They caught her just as she reached a door, raised her from the floor, and tossed her as college boys are tossed at a hazing, and above her red, fixed-smiling lips I saw the terror and disgust in her eyes, almost like my own terror and that which I saw in some of the other boys. As I watched, they tossed her twice and her soft breasts seemed to flatten against the air and her legs flung wildly as she spun. Some of the more sober ones helped her to escape. And I started off the floor, heading for the anteroom with the rest of the boys.

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Some were still crying and in hysteria. But as we tried to leave we were stopped and ordered to get into the ring. There was nothing to do but what we were told. All ten of us climbed under the ropes and allowed ourselves to be blindfolded with broad bands of white cloth. One of the men seemed to feel a bit sympathetic and tried to cheer us up as we stood with our backs against the ropes. Some of us tried to grin. “See that boy over there?” one of the men said. “I want you to run across at the bell and give it to him right in the belly. If you don’t get him, I’m going to get you. I don’t like his looks.” Each of us was told the same. The blindfolds were put on. Yet even then I had been going over my speech. In my mind each word was as bright as flame. I felt the cloth pressed into place, and frowned so that it would be loosened when I relaxed.

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But now I felt a sudden fit of blind terror. I was unused to darkness. It was as though I had suddenly found myself in a dark room filled with poisonous cottonmouths. I could hear the bleary voices yelling insistently for the battle royal to begin.

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“Get going in there!”

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“Let me at that big nigger!”

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I strained to pick up the school superintendent’s voice, as though to squeeze some security out of that slightly more familiar sound.

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“Let me at those black sonsabitches!” someone yelled.

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“No, Jackson, no!” another voice yelled. “Here, somebody, help me hold Jack.”

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“I want to get at that ginger-colored nigger. Tear him limb from limb,” the first voice yelled.

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I stood against the ropes trembling. For in those days I was what they called ginger-colored, and he sounded as though he might crunch me between his teeth like a crisp ginger cookie.

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Quite a struggle was going on. Chairs were being kicked about and I could hear voices grunting as with a terrific effort. I wanted to see, to see more desperately than ever before. But the blindfold was as tight as a thick skin-puckering scab and when I raised my gloved hands to push the layers of white aside a voice yelled, “Oh, no you don’t, black bastard! Leave that alone!”

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“Ring the bell before Jackson kills him a coon!” someone boomed in the sudden silence. And I heard the bell clang and the sound of the feet scuffling forward.

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A glove smacked against my head. I pivoted, striking out stiffly as someone went past, and felt the jar ripple along the length of my arm to my shoulder. Then it seemed as though all nine of the boys had turned upon me at once. Blows pounded me from all sides while I struck out as best I could. So many blows landed upon me that I wondered if I were not the only blindfolded fighter in the ring, or if the man called Jackson hadn’t succeeded in getting me after all.

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Blindfolded, I could no longer control my motions. I had no dignity. I stumbled about like a baby or a drunken man. The smoke had become thicker and with each new blow it seemed to sear and further restrict my lungs. My saliva became like hot bitter glue. A glove connected with my head, filling my mouth with warm blood. It was everywhere. I could not tell if the moisture I felt upon my body was sweat or blood. A blow landed hard against the nape of my neck. I felt myself going over, my head hitting the floor. Streaks of blue light filled the black world behind the blindfold. I lay prone, pretending that I was knocked out, but felt myself seized by hands and yanked to my feet. “Get going, black boy! Mix it up!” My arms were like lead, my head smarting from blows. I managed to feel my way to the ropes and held on, trying to catch my breath. A glove landed in my mid-section and I went over again, feeling as though the smoke had become a knife jabbed into my guts. Pushed this way and that by the legs milling around me, I finally pulled erect and discovered that I could see the black, sweat-washed forms weaving in the smoky-blue atmosphere like drunken dancers weaving to the rapid drum-like thuds of blows.

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Everyone fought hysterically. It was complete anarchy. Everybody fought everybody else. No group fought together for long. Two, three, four, fought one, then turned to fight each other, were themselves attacked. Blows landed below the belt and in the kidney, with the gloves open as well as closed, and with my eye partly opened now there was not so much terror. I moved carefully, avoiding blows, although not too many to attract attention, fighting from group to group. The boys groped about like blind, cautious crabs crouching to protect their mid-sections, their heads pulled in short against their shoulders, their arms stretched nervously before them, with their fists testing the smoke-filled air like the knobbed feelers of hypersensitive snails. In one corner I glimpsed a boy violently punching the air and heard him scream in pain as he smashed his hand against a ring post. For a second I saw him bent over holding his hand, then going down as a blow caught his unprotected head. I played one group against the other, slipping in and throwing a punch then stepping out of range while pushing the others into the melee to take the blows blindly aimed at me. The smoke was agonizing and there were no rounds, no bells at three minute intervals to relieve our exhaustion. The room spun round me, a swirl of lights, smoke, sweating bodies surrounded by tense white faces. I bled from both nose and mouth, the blood spattering upon my chest.

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The men kept yelling, “Slug him, black boy! Knock his guts out!” “Uppercut him! Kill him! Kill that big boy!”

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profile_photo
Feb 3
Tristan M (Feb 03 2021 11:22AM) : slaved more

In the chapter one of the invisible man, we have been introduced to a family of blacks who faced the discrimination and slavery that the suffered from the white.
the grandfather of the invisible man have been a man who fight against this life style and ask to his son(invisible man’s) father to continue the fight. The invisible man witnessed a situation where
him and other black men where forced to wrestle in a royal battle and this shows how they where badly threated as simple objects

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Taking a fake fall, I saw a boy going down heavily beside me as though we were felled by a single blow, saw a sneaker-clad foot shoot into his groin as the two who had knocked him down stumbled upon him. I rolled out of range, feeling a twinge of nausea.

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The harder we fought the more threatening the men became. And yet, I had begun to worry about my speech again. How would it go? Would they recognize my ability? What would they give me?

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I was fighting automatically when suddenly I noticed that one after another of the boys was leaving the ring. I was surprised, filled with panic, as though I had been left alone with an unknown danger. Then I understood. The boys had arranged it among themselves. It was the custom for the two men left in the ring to slug it out for the winner’s prize. I discovered this too late. When the bell sounded two men in tuxedoes leaped into the ring and removed the blindfold. I found myself facing Tatlock, the biggest of the gang. I felt sick at my stomach. Hardly had the bell stopped ringing in my ears than it clanged again and I saw him moving swiftly toward me. Thinking of nothing else to do I hit him smash on the nose. He kept coming, bringing the rank sharp violence of stale sweat. His face was a black blank of a face, only his eyes alive — with hate of me and aglow with a feverish terror from what had happened to us all. I became anxious. I wanted to deliver my speech and he came at me as though he meant to beat it out of me. I smashed him again and again, taking his blows as they came. Then on a sudden impulse I struck him lightly and as we clinched, I whispered, “Fake like I knocked you out, you can have the prize.”

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