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Invisible Man - Ralph EllisonIntroductionInvisible Man written in 1952 by Ralph Ellison documents a young black man s struggle to find identity in an inequitable and manipulative society During the course of this struggle he learns many valuable lessons both about society and himself through his experiences Short PlotCharacter AnalysisThemesThe story begins with the narrator recounting his memories of his grandfather The most remarkable and eventually the most haunting of these is his memory of his grandfather s last words in which he claims to have been a traitor to his own people and urges his son to overcome em with yeses undermine em with grins agree em to death and destruction let em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open These words remain imprinted in the narrator s mind throughout the book although he never fully understands their meaning His grandfather s words eventually serve as catalyst for his subsequent disillusionments the first of which occurs directly after he graduates from high school At this time the narrator is invited to give a speech at a gathering of the town s leading white citizens The speech he is planning to give expresses the view that humility is the essence of progress Subconsciously the words of his grandfather prevent him from truly believing the thesis of his own speech but he gives it anyway Instead of being shown respect for his work however he is humiliated by being made to fight blind-folded against other young black men and then being shocked by an electrified rug He pretends not to be angered by these events yet his true feelings escape him for a moment when while he is reading his speech he accidentally says Social equality instead of Social responsibility After he finishes his speech he is awarded a new briefcase Inside the briefcase is a scholarship to the state Negro College That night he has a dream in which his grandfather tells him
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