Social Conditioning

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Ellison's Invisible Man offers personal insight into the dynamic development of a single African American during the period of post-slavery segregation and discrimination. The innocence and trusting, however, embodied in Ellison's narrator is astonishing; it is border-line implausible. Not only does he believe Dr. Bledsoe to be a great man, but he fails to see the manipulative manner in which Dr. Bledsoe treats the white trustees of the college. Even when the president admits to "act[ing] the nigger" (Ellison 141) to move up and forward in life, the narrator maintains his unfounded admiration. He even remembers "the heavy gold chain that hung between Dr. Bledsoe's vest pockets and the air with which he snapped his watch open to consult the time" (Ellison 160) fondly after he has been expelled. It takes an ultimate betrayal by Dr. Bledsoe and the loss of everything tying him to his school for the narrator to become his own man. He was living as a conditioned puppet, mimicking the actions of others in an eternal attempt to please those in power and gain their respect. Being reborn enables him to remake himself as an independent man with morals, values, and hopes that are based in the reality of his experiences, not in the social training he has received.


Christopher Dufalla said:

This is a very interesting perspective. Indeed it would seem as though Bledsoe has brain-washed the narrator into believing in the same values and principles as he does. It thus becomes second nature to the narrator and he believes that whatever Bledsoe does is somehow for the betterment of the students at the university. Not until the narrator learns of his betrayal in Bledsoe's recommendations does the narrator see how selfish and twisted the man actually is. In order to break free of the hypnosis he needs the slap in the face, and that is just what the letter is. The narrator is removed from his trance and sees the world from a new perspective: free from the constraints of the university and its preachings.

Chelsie Bitner said:

I agree with you. I disliked Bledsoe from the very beginning. His sarcastic manner towards the narrator was rude and immature I thought, especially from one black man to another. You would think this man was white by the way he acted. I'm glad the narrator finally found out that he wasn't a good man, even if it hurt him and his hopes of finding a job. He steps up his game when he finds out about the recommendations and tries hard to get a job and will do anything for money.

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