By Anthony S. Abbott
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Additional info for Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man
He loves puns, rhymes, slogans, and paradoxes. ” cries the narrator, after buying a hot buttered yam from a street vendor in Chapter 13. “If It’s Optic White, It’s the Right White” is a slogan for the Liberty Paint Factory coined by the black Lucius Brockway. ” “All it takes to get along in this here man’s town is a little shit, grit, and mother-wit,” says Peter Wheatstraw, a street blues singer in Harlem. What all these expressions and many others have in common is that they are not only funny and clever, they also embody folk wisdom that the narrator needs to hear and understand.
That’s one view. The other is that it is a confusing mass of shifting styles that only serves to keep the reader from knowing what’s going on. Therefore, take this section of the study guide as a warning: Invisible Man is not an easy novel to read, and if you want to get the maximum pleasure and understanding from Ellison’s dazzling use of language, you will have to work at it. Ellison’s first stylistic device is word play. He loves puns, rhymes, slogans, and paradoxes. ” cries the narrator, after buying a hot buttered yam from a street vendor in Chapter 13.
That Same Pain, That Same Pleasure” is particularly helpful. Some critics, Marcus Klein for one (see “The Critics”), feel that Ellison violates point of view in the Epilogue by making the narrator come to conclusions that are too optimistic, too affirmative for his character. These statements, say the critics, are really more Ellison’s than the narrator’s, and they belong in a different novel. You will have to make your own decision about these questions as you study the Epilogue to the novel.