Invisible Man: Embodiment of Emerson's Ideals
According to Hanlon's "Eloquence and Invisible Man" Emerson's essays and philosophical teachings had a great impact on Ellison and his novel. The speeches made by the narrator, the musical components of the novel, and the idea of complete invisibility all stem from, at least in some manner, the writings of Emerson. Emerson saw oration as "composing [the audience] as a social organism." To both he and Ellison, as it becomes apparent in Invisible Man, speaking is more than sharing one's thought with a group who has come to listen. The speaker must draw upon their energy and create an atmosphere. Often, the atmosphere is musical. This is evidenced by the obvious musical components in the narrator's first speech with the Brotherhood which included "call-and-response oration." Interestingly, Hanlon claims that it is this moment, this speech, that the narrator begins his re-humanization through his rebirth. Though he is not exposed to the de-humanizing racism that he was before, his purpose is still not his own. It is unrealistic to believe, as Hanlon does, that the narrator can experience a true rebirth without developing any sense of self. He is becoming someone else, but it is another production of society. Musical references are not limited to the narrator's speech making. Ellison is constantly mentioning jazz music. Finally, the idea of invisibility is taken from or heavily influenced by the writings of Emerson. Emerson describes the point "where transcendentalist selfhood comes on at the price of selfhood itself 'Standing on the bare ground...all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all...'" This idea of invisibility is translated into Ellison's novel. His narrator is constantly referring to himself as invisible as he observes those around him. Though he does not interfere or judge their actions, he is often observing other characters' actions, countenances, and perceived motivations. Ellison leaves his audience with the final idea that the narrator can now confidently claim "I am an invisible man." He has lost all his "mean egotism." Hanlon's perception of Emerson's and Ellison's works leaves the audience with the impression that much of Ellison's philosophical ideas are adopted from Emerson. "Ellison reads Emerson in an Emersonian way."