Janice O’Brien Response to Invisible Man

February 8, 2007

I adored this book. Except for that whole Santa-Claus/Rape thing. Why is it that Santa Claus is always mentioned when there’s rape involved? Mr. Norton, who probably raped his daughter, looks like Santa. When Sybil wants Iman to rape her, he writes on her using her lipstick “You’ve been raped by Santa-Claus.” The poor guy! All Santa did was bring us presents, why is he suddenly being connected to rape and incest? The only thing I can think of is that Ellison wanted to somehow connect Norton to Sybil. What?! Norton is Sybil’s husband?! It wouldn’t surprise me. George’s last name is never mentioned, and Mr. Norton’s first name is never mentioned. AND “George” lives in NY. So does Mr. Norton. Perhaps the reason Sybil is a neglected wife is because her husband is still too in love with their dead daughter to pay any attention to his wife. So of course, there are many things that need to be discussed in this novel besides the obvious prejudice against Santa, but I think the little things should be taken out and analyzed. This obsession with numbers and their equivalents in the alphabet stems mainly from our recent math class on encoding and decoding messages, but I found this analysis of the names of characters in the book to be quite accurate to the classification of the character as existential or naturalist. My inspiration for this whole thing started with the number of lights in Iman’s basement. This is incredibly significant. There are 1,369 light bulbs in his basement. Now, stay with me here, this sounds un-related but if you take the digits in the number and add them together, and continue adding the resulting number’s digits together, you get 1. Think of 1 as I. Iman has exactly this many light bulbs because that number allows him to

be existential. The one is a symbol of a character knowing the meaning of 1, or “I”, and because they know who they are, they are existential characters. Characters who don’t add up to 1 are not existential characters. For names with spaces, I used number 1 to represent the space. 1+3+6+9=19 I M A N 1+9=10 1+0=1

9 I use “Iman” because he does not become existential until he 13 realizes that he is invisible. Until that point, he is “the narrator.” 1 14 = 37 = 3+7 = 10= 1+0 = 1

D 4 R18 1 B2 L 12 E 5 D 4 S 19 O 15 E5

Dr. Bledsoe is not an existential character because he tries to act like something he isn’t. = 85 = 8+5 = 13 = 1+3 = 4

J 10 I 9 M 13 1 T 20 R 18 Jim Trueblood, despite his horrible actions, is existential because U 21 he does not try to be anyone other than himself. E 5 B 2 L 12 O 15 O 15 D 4 = 145 = 1+4+5 = 10 = 1+0 = 1 But enough fooling around, that was just my little numbers game. The real thing I want to discuss is the importance of the “inserts” or the italicized regions set off from the main text. They’re what really make this novel what it is. The cards the doctors hold up

asking “Boy, who was Brer Rabbit?”, the lyrics to songs Iman remembers, and the sign “Keep America pure with Liberty Paints.” These “inserts” that are set off from the normal text and that are either italicized or capitalized are there to catch the reader’s eye and bring attention to things that Ellison wanted to emphasize. Brer Rabbit represents Iman’s connection to his folk identity. So does the Yams sign. Songs and music is very important throughout the book. The prologue mentions Louis Armstrong’s song with lyrics: “What did I do to be so Black and Blue?” and many other songs go through Iman’s head in this book that represent his folk identity, or are important lyrically to his current situation. The Liberty Paints sign was a red flag to the reader to pay attention to the chapter because of the color symbolism. Ellison made the book more interesting by adding these inserts with the text. Now, whether the name/number coincidence was more than a coincidence, or if that was just pure luck, it doesn’t matter, I just found it interesting.