From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.
Invisible Man (1952) | Written by: Ralph Ellison | Published by: Random House
Thug Notes Summary and Analysis
What’s the deal, yo? This week we keepin it on the DL with Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
Now when the narrator of dis book starts off sayin he invisible, it
ain’t cuz he got super powers. It’s cuz whenever people look at him, they only see “their surroundings, themselves, and their imagination.”
So this cat start reminiscing about back in the day when his young self got “the honor” of making speech in front of some white folk. But before he do, The Invisible Man gotta throw down with some bruthas and make a damn fool of himself as entertainment. When it’s all said and done, these crazy crackas throw him some change for his education.
In college, the narrator gotta drive around a rich honkie named Norton. But after showin him how black folk really live, the Invisible Man gets expelled and ends up grindin at a factory in New York.
S’all good til one day sh** goes hyphy at work and the narrator blacks the fu** out. The Invisible Man hits the streets of Harlem where he shacks up with some soul-sistah named Mary, who heals his wounds and learns him good on his black heritage.
After the Invisible Man heal up, some fools called the Brotherhood axe if he wanna join an organization to help the oppressed. The price- he kiss his name and his past goodbye.
When Clifton, one of his brotherhood boys, disappears, our boy goes looking for him but soon after see him get capped by the 5- O. Rodney King preach! So the narrator pours one out for Clifton during his funeral, but the Brotherhood start tweakin about him doin it without their say-so.
Sh** gets real when some thug named Ras The Destroyer sparks a riot up in Harlem. This fool throws a god damn spear at the invisible man, but our boy ducks it, picks it back up, and slangs it right in his grill. Then Inveezy fall in to a sewer hole where the po-lice trap him. And he been chillin underground ever since. Throughout this novel, Invisible Man’s main game is finding a true identity in a world full of phonies tryin to tell him who he be. Whether it’s Emerson, Norton, or Jack from the Brotherhood:
“They were very much the same, each attempting to force his picture of reality upon me and neither giving a hoot in hell for how things looked to me. I was simply a material, a natural resource to be used.”
But only by defining himself can the invisible man really break dem chains and be free.
So our boy try to find a gang of other playas who fightin the same power. But even the Brotherhood schemin to use the narrator for they own purposes. They say they a gang of liberators, but on the real, they really just a bunch of oppressors. The Invisible Man trying to find out who he is, but these haters playin it raw and tell him to forget his name and past.
But how’s a brotha gonna cope with all these haters rollin fake? Homie gotta look at life with a new sense of awareness.
Even though Invisible Man dealing with some real street sh**, he learns to look at life through through a COMIC FRAME. Like his grandpappi say: “laugh to keep from crying.”
Every single time this thug try to change his life in order to stop being run, it ends up so far from what he intended that it seems straight up absurd. For example, his speech at the beginning don’t give him no respect, but it does give him a mouth full of blood.
When its all said and done, the Invisible Man finally gets exactly what he chasin. Wading through all dat absurd bullsh** helps him find out who he truly is. Like my main man Albert Camus once said:
In the end, our boy throws all these fake haters to the wind, and say he don’t need them to find his own identity. So he buries himself underground, picks up a pen, and defines himself through spittin his story. That’s some heroic sh** right thurr.
So define yo-self by pickin up some of my swag. Tune in next week and get you ass educated. Later!