Irving Howe and Inivisble Man

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Invisible Man is a novel based on the journey and experiences of an unnamed Negro man during contemporary America. He is in search of success, companionship, and himself. Irving Howe says that, "The beginning is a nightmare," because it begins with a black timid boy who is awarded a scholarship and sent to the South and invited to a ballroom with other black boys and they observe and are frightened by a woman dancing nude. The boys who are blindfolded create a "battle royal" or a raucous, but after the chaos the black boy give a thank you speech. Although the beginning of the novel is a bit frightening, the rest of however is pretty straight forward, it basically just tells the life story of this "unnamed hero" (the Negro boy who is the Invisible Man). The "hero" goes to his Southern college, but is expelled, so is forced to leave for New York, where he works in a factory and becomes a soap boxer.

Next Howe comments on Ellison’s style by calling him "gifted" but "not a finished craftsman." Howe means that Ellison tries to overwhelm the reader, when instead he should be either persuading or telling the story. The novel is written in first person singular and therefore Howe mentions that it is hard to distinguish between the hero and himself (the matured "I" telling the story and the "I" who is the victim). The middle section of the novel concerns the Harlem Stalinists (Communists), to Howe it appears untrue, due to the fact that Ellison wrote with bitterness and made the Stalinists seem stupid, vicious and cynical. He was not surprised either by the Invisible Man’s final discovery that after he quit the Communist Party, "my world has become one of infinite possibilities," because he did not want to be rejected nor not seen by various social groups.

I agree with Howe, that Ellison is a very gifted writer, with an amazing style. I would have to disagree with Howe however, when he mentions that Ellison tries to overwhelm the reader and that it gets confusing because it is written in first person. Although Ralph Ellison, relies heavily on various symbol (visions and black and white), which can get confusing at times, but they can only help the novel and in no way destroy it. Also, Ellison’s style is also creative because it allows the novel to appear as if you were actually listen to a Negro telling the story, in the sense that Ellison’s wrote in the local dialect of the time (with a Southern Negro accent).

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