An Invisible Meaning

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"The next day i saw his picture in the Daily News, beneath a caption stating that he had been "mugged".Poor fool, poor blind fool, I thought with sincere compassion, mugged by an invisible man!"
-Invisible Man p. 8

While I read chapters 1-14 of Invisible Man, this passage in the prolouge stayed in my mind. Something about the whole situation bothered me, and after considering it for awhile, I think I came up with a conclusion about what Ellison was trying to say through this scene.

I think what struck me about this scene was the realness of it. The whole encounter seemed so violent - yet so real. The strong reaction the narrarator seems like an overreaction. It is portrayed, I feel, to seem like one. Yet, when you think about it again, maybe its not. Now I can never say I have been in that type of a situation before, but is it not human nature to react strongly when you feel as if you are being verbally attacked? It is not common for someone to just sit there and take it. Violence, as they say, is never the answer, but I can see how someone may become heated in that sort of situation (even if the force that he used was inappropriate).

But, I think that the real message is not necessarily in the violent beating and confrontation, but in the story the narrator said was written in the paper about the incident. He says that he feels bad for someone who was mugged by an invisible man. Mugging is not a light subject, and the man took a very painful beating. Yet, the article portrayed only one side of the situation. No one knew that the blond man had been vulgar and continued to provoke the "invisible man".

This shows that maybe the narrator really is invisible - at least to anyone who read the paper. After reading the article, people were able to make judgements about him - without even knowing who he was. In no way am I saying that he was completely justified in his actions, but maybe readers should consider the unfairness he had to deal with as well. Individuals are always quick to judge based on what they know, and only what they know. Often times people do not take the time to consider gathering all the facts before the judge. I think that this part of the book really foreshawdows other events I read in the book. I know that the prolouge reminded me to read without making rash judgements.

Thoughts From Others



Alicia Campbell said:

I agree with you. Your interpretation made two thoughts pop into my mind. The quickness to judge is unfortunate, and by reading the article in the newspaper, people will no doubt empathize with the mugged and hate the mugger. But, in this case, the mugger is really the victim; in fact, victimization has become a way of life for the narrator by no fault of his own. Secondly, I was reminded of the advice all of us have prpbably been given at some point: Be nice to everyone you encounter, because you can never know what that person might be going through.

Marie vanMaanen said:

I think you are right about the real meaning of this scene. It is not uncommon to only know one side of the story and make judgments based on that. I think in this case, knowing the full details does justify the invisible man's actions entirely, but it does make his actions more understandable and more humane. It is natural for people to react when attacked and provoked. I think that if one knows the invisible man was provoked, then his actions seem less harsh. I think people reading the article would be able to relate to him more then and not judge him quite as toughly.

Rosalind Blair said:

When reading this part of the prologue, I had to sympathize with the mugger because I did feel as if he had been wronged, even if no one would ever really be able to see the pain he went through during this situation. He may not have been completely justified, but knowing he was provoked would play a huge role in the opinions of the readers of the paper.

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