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Trueblood and the Statue in Ellison's Invisible Man
Trueblood, in Invisible Man, is well developed, interesting character. He is the black man who sleeps with his wife and daughter and gets them both pregnant.
To start off, the name Trueblood itself is ironic. His blood is no longer "true" because it has been contaminated by a grave sin-he slept with his own kin! Trueblood's story of dreaming when having sex with his daughter is a bit fantastic, and yet it is credible. Thus, his name could also mean he speaks the truth. Ellison might be using the name as a technique (besides empathy) to give Trueblood's story credence.
Trueblood is ignorant and this blinds society of him. The initially pompous narrator describes him as "too ignorant" on page 48. This is furthered when Trueblood can't understand Mr. Norton. Mr. Norton said on the same page "You feel no inner turmoil, no need to cast out the offending eye?" he says "I'm all right, suh. My eyes is all right too". Dr. Bledsoe didn't want Mr. Norton to see Trueblood-he is trying to keep the image of black society away from the downtrodden blacks. Thus, society is being kept hidden from Trueblood and Trueblood is being kept hidden from society. But, this aloofness is not without merits. Trueblood's remorse for his actions, and his belief that a "man don't leave his family" attest to his self-imposed morality. Morality formed without the benefit of a guiding society. This is just like the Invisible Man. He found his own morality after relinquishing societies guidelines.
Trueblood also raises the issue of blindness to reality. He doesn't have sex with his daughter while fully conscious. Instead, he sleeps with her when he was dreaming. In this dream, he metaphorically describes his sexual experience: " I runs and runs till I should be tired but ain't tired but feelin' more rested as I runs... Only I'm still in the tunnel. Then way up ahead I sees a bright light like a jack-o-lantern over a graveyard. It gits brighter and brighter...it burst like a great big electric light in my eyes" (59). He doesn't realize he is having sex at all! He was completely oblivious to reality. He is in a dream state, where nothing that is happening is real. This is just like most of the Invisible Man's life.
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The major issue of Trueblood, though, lies in his treatment by the white community. Before his sin, his life was hard. He says on page 53 "Ever time I think... what a hard time we was having I gits the shakes". He goes on to recant about how "it was cold and us didn't have much fire... I tried to git help but wouldn't nobody help us". After the sin though, white men came running to his rescue. He gets the white police to ward off the black people who were trying to drive him off his land. Also, white people offered him money. A great example of this help is when Mr. Norton gives Trueblood $100 to buy his children presents. Trueblood himself says "I done the worse thing a man could even do in his family and instead of chasin' me out of the country, they gimme more help than they ever give any other colored man" (67) and "I got more work now than I ever did before" (53). Thus, the white community's treatment of Trueblood is ironic-the white men are rewarding what they would deem morally reprehensible if committed by another white man. It shows an initial flaw in the white man's plan to raise the level of the blacks. So the theme evoked by Trueblood's good treatment by the white men is one of moral hypocrisy and blindness.
It is this complete irony that forms the basis of two of the themes of Ellison's novel: the idea of blindness as an escape from reality and moral hypocrisy.
The statue of the founder is an important symbol in the novel. It is described on page 36:
"I see the bronze statue of the college Founder, the cold Father symbol, his hands outstretched in the breathtaking gesture of lifting a veil that flutters in hard, metallic folds above the face of a kneeling slave; and I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding...[he then goes to say] Why is a bird-soiled statue more commanding than one that is clean?"
This statue has much significance to the novel. First of all, the statue is described as cold, having hard metallic folds, and empty eyes. These all refer to the Founder-who could be a cold, hard, empty man. The idea of the "empty eyes" is extra important because of the whole motif of blindness that exists in Invisible Man. The eyes might show a void a feeling, but more likely a void of true knowledge. His great black college might be based on mistaken knowledge rather than truth. Also, the fact that Founder and Father are capitalized equates the founder with God! (This is how many of the students view the Founder-just like the narrator in the beginning of the novel).
In addition, the slave's veil is either being lifted or placed more firmly into place. The fact that there is bird poop on the statue shows how much the statue is really worth-nothing. That is why the statue is more commanding. It tells the Invisible Man that the Founder is no good, and that he is really lowering the veil more firmly in place. This would also further the idea of "empty eyes". The idea of people pulling the proverbial wool over someone's eyes shows up later in the novel and thus is a motif. Other places it shows up is with Dr. Bledsoe and the communist party. Bledsoe tricked the narrator into thinking he had a chance to get back in school, while instead he was trying to sealing the narrator's fate to squalor. The communist party also pulled the wool over the eyes of many. The party blindfoldings its entire constituency. The committee believes that "it is impossible not to take advantage of people" (504) and that the committee is the judging body which can make the best decisions for them. The people don't realize that they are being used, manipulated, and in some cases sacrificed. Their eyes have been covered with faith and passion.
Thus, the theme the statue evokes is one of blindness through trickery.