Blindness = A Fork in the Road?

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"What had come out was completely uncalculated, as though another self within me had taken over and held forth." -Invisible Man, Ellison; Chapter 16, page 353.

I chose to look at this quote because it reminded me of something. If I recall correctly, people, such as in the ancient times, did not respect poets; rather, they deemed poets as mere channels of talent. In other words, poets produced these masterpieces, but did not understand their craft. Indeed, any person standing by could interpret a poem better than its author! I cannot decide whether or not this is what is happening to the invisible man. In the above quote, he obviously admits not knowing from where the words came. Is the invisible man a channel? Does he speak the words, but not understand their meaning? However, the invisible man was also temporarily blinded at the culmination of his speech. Was he beginning to see things clearly? Was he beginning to take responsibility for himself and his race, the members of which he formerly deemed ignorant and disgraceful? Was the invisible man beginning to see Dr. Bledsoe as the enemy, the atiphesis of his aspirations, rather than his mentor and predecessor? I cannot decide. The invisible man also speaks of feeling as though he belonged to the audience that accepted his speech, yet he could not see the faces of its members, only a blur. Is the invisible man really beginning to identify with his race, and realize his purpose? Or is he merely going through the motions of some calling he does not understand? Is the invisible man blind in that he now sees things clearly, or is he blind because he does not know where he is going?

What do you think?



Alyssa Sanow said:

I accidentally posted this comment on your blog about the Academic Article! It was supposed to go here!
I agree, there are many moments of foreshadowing for the reader. It’s almost as if Ellison wants to keep the reader on his or her toes, not letting them get to comfortable with the story or the idea of a “happy ending” for the narrator. I did not notice the use of “staccato” until you mentioned it. The narrator does, however, discuss being removed from reality quite often as well. Maybe Ellison’s use of “staccato” meaning disjointed or detached relates to his narrator’s feelings.

Christopher Dufalla said:

I'm not sure about the history of poets and their particular roles in society, but the idea that the narrator is searching for something is apparent. He wants acceptance as much as he wants the African American race to gain respect and good fortune.

He desires approval from the Brotherhood, the audience, and he wants to make positive changes to society. He is young and ambitious, but he has not yet come into contact with enough to know exactly what he's doing. Sure, he's been through a great deal, but there is still very much to be learned. In a sense, I feel that the narrator is throwing darts in the dark, or perhaps that blinding light of the spot-light. Either way, he's experimenting and letting himself get slightly carried away, to an extent.

April Minerd said:

I didn’t know about poets, but I've heard the phrase "prophetic frenzy" used in relevance to religion and the Old Testament, where individuals were vessels for divine use. Maybe Ellison uses this idea because the words are not exactly the narrators own. The person he is at that moment is not capable of such insight. The origin of his words eludes him because at this point he is still uncovering pieces of his identity. He assumes whatever role others have convinced him he should, and so, he is a stranger to himself.

Alicia Campbell said:

You all bring up good points. After reading your comments, I began to consider that what is happening to the invisible man is not that unusual. Perhaps the words of the speech are coming from society: ideas he has heard but has not necessarily come to believe for himself. It's kind of like religion. One may go to church every sunday because his parents make him, but not until much later may he begin to believe the ideas being preached there. This may be what is happening to the invisible man, only his process is made public, at least to the reader.

Robert Zanni said:

I think that the narrator is blind because everyone around him is blind. They are blind to what is going on in the world and what is being done to stop that either violent or non-violent. They are also blind to him. They do not see our narrator in a sense, he is invisible. Still not being being seen for what he really stands for and is fighting for. He sees only the audience in a blur because they see him for a blur. Just a blur speaking about things happening in front of their very own eyes, but things that they are still so blind to.

Alicia Campbell said:

I never thought to extend the blindness beyond the invisible man to include his audience. But I guess the invisible man represents the entire race. This is exactly how the Brotherhood manages to carry out its plan, by exploiting this "disability".

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