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EN2112: Invisible Man


Point of View ... POV can be limited or omniscient. It can be in ... POV in Invisible Man. Shifts between present tense and retrospective are most important. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: EN2112: Invisible Man

EN2112 Invisible Man
  • 28 September 2004
  • Review Elements of Fiction in
  • relation to Invisible Man
  • Papers

  • These are primary elements other rubrics may
    differ slightly.
  • They may be applied, roughly and with adaptation,
    to any verbal work of art and many kinds of
  • These are building blocks, not modes of approach
    (feminist, freudian, foucauldian, formalist,
    filistine, etc etc)
  • In analyzing complex work, it is often useful to
    isolate one element or another in order to
    delimit possibilities, deepen focus, and then
    demonstrate that ones observations of pattern in
    one area bespeak the work as a whole (switch from
    depth back to breadth in conclusion)

6 elements in 3 groups situation, language, and
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Form
  • Character
  • Point of View
  • Style, Tone, and Language
  • Theme Symbolism, Allegory, and Image

  • Plot meaningful series of events that
    develops from conflict(s). Sometimes (5 act
    tragedy) its organized into Situation,
    Development, Intensification, Climax, Falling
    Action (fruition of climax).
  • Plot vs Story (development of Forster idea) A
    story is a recorded chronological series of
    events, whereas A plot is a series of events
    deliberately arranged so as to reveal their
    dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance
    (39). Forster emphasizes motivation, conflict,
    and causality. (Aspects of the Novel)
  • Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction A Guide to
    Narrative Craft 5th ed. Longman, 2000.

Plot of Invisible Man
  • Invisible Man speaks from a basement with many
    light-bulbs and recounts his troubled journey.
  • IM is a young, ambitious man from the South who
    is haunted by his grandfathers deathbed
    injunction that he should live in the lions
  • Conflict should he try to be a member of a
    racist community or cynically admit that this is
    impossible? (one possible description).

Plot of Invisible Man
  • IM gives a speech to a white community group and
    is made to look foolish in various ways (Battle
    Royale) but gives his speech and stumbles over
    the word responsibility.
  • Conflict Shall he say what he thinks, or what
    they (who have money for his college) want to

Plot of IM (and some meaning, theme, motif)
  • IM goes to college, takes an important person to
    see Trueblood (his voyeuristic slumming)
  • Dr Bledsoe is furious, and IM is sent packing
    with reference letters.
  • Keep this nigger runninghe is tricked.
  • His movement the voyage north.

IM goes North
  • Up north, his disillusion/ education continues.
    Eg., the optic white paint company explosion.
    Mr Emerson.
  • The journey to the North as escape from southern
    racism is found to be illusory.
  • One day he falls into a political action and
    winds up speaking well.

  • Finale of novel involves choices
  • Stay with the Brotherhood? (Communist Party,
    quasi-racist paternalism)
  • Ras the Destroyer? (Ethnic nationalism,
    foreshadows Black Aesthetic)
  • Or drop out of time like Tod Clifton becomes
    Rinehartrind heart no heart or no meaning,
    no commitment. Just play the system. Not
    dresscf Zoot suit of Malcolm Little at beginning
    of Spike Lees film.

Setting IM in a whole?
  • IM in a basement, in a whole in the ground.
    Waiting to be born?
  • Or just stagnant, paralyzed?
  • He insists covert preparation for overt action.
  • other settings rural South mens club, college
    town, NY factory, the streets
  • Great variety to suggest America
  • Time 1930s
  • Form of novel unifies disparate strands of

Form of novel
  • Form is a tricky term. It gathers meaning via
    context, meaning, it means what you mean by it
    when you use it carefully. It can be used in
    many ways.
  • Genre bildungsroman story of young persons
  • Also Comic adventurethe hero is often wrong
    picaresque road novel tradition.
  • Or it could be read as a political novel, one
    that focuses especially on sandtraps within paths
    toward political engagement.
  • Not either/or a genre can be a flat-out
    factual judgment, OR it can be something people
    argue about. One might argue about what kind of
    story one is discussing.

character point of view
  • C and POV are intimately allied
  • 1st person used to emphasize mentality of
    character at different moments initial fury at
    racism and invisibility, naiveté as he speaks
    after Battle Royale or to members of the
  • Ellison this is the story of a slow learner.

character and conflict
  • A one-sentence statement of the novel and the
    characters central conflict IM continually
    struggles with his various social groups in ways
    that foreground the agonistic struggle for
    individuality and anatomize the corrupting
    influence of conformity in America.

  • Like plot, character is often built up out of
    conflict and tension. Type is also important
    serious writers often like to complicate with
    stereotypes. Obviously, working against type is
    an excellent way to create SURPRISE and TENSION,
    which are two reasons readers keep reading. IM
    work within the system or abandon responsibility?

Point of View
  • Point of view can be absolutely stable, or a
    writer can shift point of view watch for this in
    Dreamer, as Johnson shifts pov in italicized
    chapters. They are in Kings mind, and they are
    beyond what Matthew Bishop can experience
  • POV can be limited or omniscient. It can be in
    the moment or retrospective. It can be reliable
    or unreliable.

POV in Invisible Man
  • Shifts between present tense and retrospective
    are most important.
  • They organize our view of the young mans story
    (the past) and bring it to bear on his present
    in the hole situation (which is narrated in
    present tense).
  • Recuperation and redemption of bad past see it
    as a covert (hidden from consciousness, one
    didnt know) preparation for an overt action.
    Soooohell come out of the hole?

  • style, tone, language, theme, symbolism,
    allegory, image and suchlike.
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