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Minhoang Justin Nguyen

1st Period
April 21, 2011

Question 3 Review
AP English Literature and Composition

Hamlet
Invisible Man
Title: Hamlet Author: William Shakespeare Genre: Play, Drama

I. Characters
A. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark - The crown prince of Denmark who returns from university to
find his father dead, his mother married to the king’s brother Claudius, and Claudius as the
newly self-crowned King. About thirty years old at the start of the play, Hamlet is the son of
Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius.
Hamlet is melancholy, bitter, and cynical, full of hatred for his uncle’s scheming and disgust
for his mother’s sexuality. A reflective and thoughtful young man who has studied at the
University of Wittenberg, Hamlet is often indecisive and hesitant, but at other times prone to
rash and impulsive acts.
B. Claudius, King of Denmark - Dead King Hamlet’s brother who has usurped the throne and
married his sister-in-law. The villain of the play, Claudius is a calculating, ambitious
politician, driven by his sexual appetites and his lust for power, but he occasionally shows
signs of guilt and human feeling—his love for Gertrude, for instance, seems sincere.
C. Gertrude, Queen of Denmark - Prince Hamlet’s mother, King Hamlet’s widow, King
Claudius’ wife. Gertrude is most definitely a central figure in the play – Hamlet spends a
whole lot of time dwelling on her incestuous marriage to Claudius – but her character is also
pretty ambiguous. Was she having an affair with Claudius before the death of Old Hamlet?
Does Gertrude know that Claudius killed her former husband? Why does she drink the
poisoned wine her husband has prepared for her son? Does she know it's poisoned? Or, is
she just really thirsty? Like so many other issues in Hamlet, Shakespeare leaves these
questions unanswered. But, that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't think about them
anyway.
D. The Ghost - Spirit of the late King Hamlet, condemned to walk the earth until his soul is
cleansed of its sins. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, calls upon
Hamlet to avenge him. However, it is not entirely certain whether the ghost is what it
appears to be, or whether it is something else. Hamlet speculates that the ghost might be a
devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder, and the question of what the ghost is
or where it comes from is never definitively resolved.
E. Polonius - The elderly Lord Chamberlain, chief counselor to Claudius. Polonius is the
father of Laertes and Ophelia.
F. Horatio - A commoner, Horatio went to school with Hamlet and remains his loyal best
friend. After Hamlet’s death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlet’s story.
G. Laertes - A student in Paris, Laertes is Polonius’ son and Ophelia’s brother; he returns from
school because of King Hamlet’s death, leaves to go back to Paris, and then returns again
after his own father’s murder. a young man who spends much of the play in France.
Passionate and quick to action, Laertes is clearly a foil for the reflective Hamlet.
H. Ophelia - Daughter of Polonius, sister of Laertes, Ophelia is beloved of Hamlet. Ophelia is a
sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. Dependent on
men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in
her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and
finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered.
I. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - Classmates of Hamlet’s at university. Claudius summons
them to Elsinore to spy on Prince Hamlet. Two slightly bumbling courtiers, former friends
of Hamlet from Wittenberg, who are summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the
cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior.
J. Fortinbras - King of Norway, bound to avenge his father’s death by the Danes’ hands. the
king (also named Fortinbras) was killed by Hamlet’s father (also named Hamlet). Now
Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s honor, making him another foil
for Prince Hamlet.
K. Osric - Affected courtier who plays a minor role as the King’s messenger and as umpire of
the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes.
L. Voltimand and Cornelius - Danish courtiers who are sent as ambassadors to the Court of
Norway.
M. Marcellus and Barnardo - Danish officers on guard at the castle of Elsinore. Marcellus is
present when Hamlet first encounters the ghost.
N. Francisco - Danish soldier on guard at the castle of Elsinore.
O. Reynaldo - Young man whom Polonius instructs and sends to Paris to observe and report on
Laertes’ conduct.
P. Two Clowns (the Gravediggers) - Two rustics (identified as clowns) who dig Ophelia’s
grave.
II. Settings
A. The Middle Ages – Religion vs. superstition played a major role in this play, as did
Protestants vs. Catholics. Likewise, contemporary directors of stage and film versions of
Hamlet have set the play in places and periods ranging from Elizabethan England to
nineteenth century Europe to twenty-first century New York City. In the latter case,
Gertrude and Claudius run a high-powered New York corporation and the ghost of Old
Hamlet appears on security televisions in the company's offices. The fact that this setting
somehow works is a testament to the universality and relevance of the play's themes, don't
you think?
B. The Royal Court - Whatever the physical setting, it's important to understand that the
dynamic of the royal court of Denmark is high-powered and manipulative. Public image
matters. Hamlet's emotional struggles and madness are not just playing out in his own
home: his strange behavior is a liability to his parents, and they have a political interest in
bringing him under control. "Madness in great ones must not unwatched go," says Claudius
(3.1.188). So imagine if the president's children started acting as strangely as Hamlet does.
The same dynamic is happening in Hamlet – the first son is totally off-the-wall, and
Claudius and Gertrude are desperately attempting damage control. It's a big political
nightmare for Claudius and Gertrude.
III. Perspective/ Point(s) of view
A. Verse – Often blank verse with a few rhyming couplets. Shakespeare's iambic pentameter
serves as a distinction between noble classes and lower individuals. Think, for example, of
Claudius's opening speech in Act I, scene ii, where he addresses the court. Hamlet's
soliloquies are usually in verse as well but he also speaks a lot of prose. (This has a lot to do
with all the role-playing he does, which you can read about in "Art and Culture.")
B. Prose - Not everyone in the play speaks in blank verse, which we've established is the
elegant, high-class way of talking. Characters lower on the social scale – like the
gravediggers (which is about as low as we get in Hamlet) don't talk in a special poetic
rhythm; they just talk. Hamlet himself, however, sometimes speaks in prose, and even some
of his most poetic or most important lines don't fall into that iambic pentameter beat. Take,
for instance, the following line: "How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in
moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this
quintessence of dust?" (2.2.250). That's high on the Poetry Richter scale yet it's written in
prose. It's also worth noting that when Ophelia goes mad, she communicates through prose
and songs
IV.Symbols
A. Skull/Graveyard - Hamlet's constant brooding about death and humanity comes to a head
(grotesque pun intended) in the infamous graveyard scene, where Hamlet holds up the
unearthed skull of Yorick, a court jester Hamlet knew and loved as a young boy. The skull
itself is a physical reminder of the finality of death. For all of Hamlet's brooding and
philosophical contemplation of mortality, here, Hamlet literally looks death directly in the
face. Aside from seeming to "grow up" in the graveyard, some literary critics also suggest
that Hamlet literally ages in this scene. Here's how the argument works: when the play
begins, Hamlet is a university student, which means he's pretty young. By the time Hamlet
makes it to the graveyard in Act V, Hamlet appears to be thirty years old (much older than
the average university student). The evidence? The First Clown says he's been a gravedigger
in Elsinore since "the very day that young Hamlet was born" (5.1.28) and a few lines later
he reveals that he's been a "sexton" in Denmark for "thirty years" (5.2.30). If you want to
argue that Shakespeare just messed things up, feel free (Shakespeare has been known to
make a mistake or two). But it's not so surprising to us that Hamlet literally ages between
Act I and Act V – perhaps it's a reflection of his new, more mature outlook on life and death.
B. Gardens - There's a whole lot of garden imagery in the play. The thing is, the gardens in
Hamlet aren't necessarily the kind of places where you'd like to hang out and watch
butterflies while you picnic. According to Hamlet, the entire world "tis an unweeded garden,
/ That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature / Possess it merely" (1.2.6). The word
"rank" refers to the fertile overgrowth of vegetation and also implies the kind of festering
and rot that often accompanies lush foliage. Why does Hamlet see the world this way? As
his speech continues, it becomes clear that his father's death as well as his mother's sexual
appetite and marriage to Claudius are the causes of Hamlet's world view. In fact, the term
"rank" turns up over and over again throughout the play to describe Gertrude's incestuous
relationship. Consider, for example, Hamlet's description of his mother's "rank" marriage
bed, which offers a rather repulsive view of sexuality.
C. Flowers - When Ophelia loses her mind in Act IV, Scene v, she starts handing out flowers to
everyone around her. She talks directly about the symbolic meaning of those flowers, but
what's also important is to whom she hands each flower. Does Ophelia give the rosemary
(for remembrance) to an invisible Hamlet, praying he hasn't forgotten about her? Does she
give the rue (another word for regret) to Gertrude, who may be regretting her hasty marriage
to Claudius? Keep these questions in mind as you read Ophelia's lines. "There's rosemary,
that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember," she says, "and there is pansies. That's for
thoughts […]. There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue for you; and here's some
for me: we may call it the herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with a
difference. There's a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my
father died." Fennel symbolized strength and praiseworthiness, columbine symbolized folly,
daisies symbolized innocence, and violets symbolized faithfulness and modesty.
V. Plot
A. O n a dark winter night, a ghost walks the ramparts of Elsinore Castle in Denmark.
Discovered first by a pair of watchmen, then by the scholar Horatio, the ghost resembles the
recently deceased King Hamlet, whose brother Claudius has inherited the throne and
married the king’s widow, Queen Gertrude. When Horatio and the watchmen bring Prince
Hamlet, the son of Gertrude and the dead king, to see the ghost, it speaks to him, declaring
ominously that it is indeed his father’s spirit, and that he was murdered by none other than
Claudius. Ordering Hamlet to seek revenge on the man who usurped his throne and married
his wife, the ghost disappears with the dawn.
B. We also learn that Ophelia's got a romantic thing going on with Hamlet. Her brother,
Laertes, tells her to drop Hamlet like a bad habit because Hamlet's only trying to sleep with
her. Besides, Hamlet's a prince and so out of her league. Ophelia reminds her big brother
that he's got no room to talk and then Polonius shows up and wants to know what his kids
are talking about. Dad concurs with Laertes's remarks and tells Ophelia to let things cool off
with Hamlet. Being an obedient daughter, Ophelia agrees
C. Prince Hamlet devotes himself to avenging his father’s death, but, because he is
contemplative and thoughtful by nature, he delays, entering into a deep melancholy and
even apparent madness. Claudius and Gertrude worry about the prince’s erratic behavior
and attempt to discover its cause. They employ a pair of Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern, to watch him. When Polonius, the pompous Lord Chamberlain, suggests that
Hamlet may be mad with love for his daughter, Ophelia, Claudius agrees to spy on Hamlet
in conversation with the girl. But though Hamlet certainly seems mad, he does not seem to
love Ophelia: he orders her to enter a nunnery and declares that he wishes to ban marriages.
D. A group of traveling actors comes to Elsinore, and Hamlet seizes upon an idea to test his
uncle’s guilt. He will have the players perform a scene closely resembling the sequence by
which Hamlet imagines his uncle to have murdered his father, so that if Claudius is guilty,
he will surely react. When the moment of the murder arrives in the theater, Claudius leaps
up and leaves the room. Hamlet and Horatio agree that this proves his guilt. Hamlet goes to
kill Claudius but finds him praying. Since he believes that killing Claudius while in prayer
would send Claudius’s soul to heaven, Hamlet considers that it would be an inadequate
revenge and decides to wait. Claudius, now frightened of Hamlet’s madness and fearing for
his own safety, orders that Hamlet be sent to England at once.
E. Claudius confers with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and finds out that they haven't
discovered the source of Hamlet's odd behavior. Gertrude says she hopes Ophelia's beauty is
the source of his madness. Everyone leaves while Hamlet delivers the big "to be or not to
be" speech in which he thinks about the pros and cons of suicide and decides that most
people don't commit suicide because they don't know what death will be like –it's an
"undiscovered country." Then Hamlet meets up with Ophelia, where he acts crazy and cruel,
possibly because he knows Polonius is spying on them the whole time. Hamlet accuses all
women of being dishonest and says to Ophelia "get thee to a nunnery," which is Elizabethan
slang for "go back to your brothel."
F. Hamlet asks Horatio to help him watch Claudius during his play's performance. When the
murder scene plays, Claudius does all but stand up and shout that he's guilty. That takes care
of that, and Hamlet is convinced that his stepfather/uncle is guilty of the crime. Hamlet is
livid and later tries to kill Claudius. Unfortunately, Hamlet finds Claudius praying. Hamlet,
sneaking up behind him, decides killing a man while he's praying is not only dishonorable,
but will get Claudius a ticket to Heaven, which the guy doesn't deserve.
G. In Gertrude's room, Polonius tells her she should have a conversation with Hamlet and try to
figure out what's up, since no one else has been able to do so. He'll hide behind a curtain and
listen in. Hamlet enters and berates his mother for so quickly marrying Claudius after her
first husband's death. Gertrude gets scared and calls out for help. Polonius shouts back and
Hamlet, thinking the man behind the curtain is Claudius (maybe), stabs Polonius in the guts.
Polonius dies. When Hamlet realizes his mistake, his reaction is something like this:
"Whoops. I thought that was your husband/brother-in-law behind the screen. But that's
nothing compared to what you've done, Mom. Incest is so much worse than murder."
H. When Gertrude tells Claudius her son has indeed gone mad (she conveniently leaves out the
part about Hamlet accusing him of murdering the old king) Claudius has Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern fetch the Prince and accompany him to England, where Hamlet will be out of
the way. On the way to England, Hamlet looks ashore from his ship and sees Prince
Fortinbras of Norway marching across the land to fight for some lost territories. He thinks
Fortinbras's war is petty but he is inspired to action and decides he needs to go back to
Denmark and finish what he didn't start, namely, the killing of Claudius.
I. Back at the castle, Ophelia has cracked and gone mad. She wanders around the castle
singing strange and bawdy songs, which makes everyone uncomfortable. Meanwhile,
Laertes has returned home from France to avenge father's death and is enraged at the sight
of his sister. Claudius calms him down by explaining that Hamlet killed Polonius, and
together they can get back at the Prince by staging a "friendly" duel in which they can
treacherously kill the Prince. The plan: Laertes will use a sharpened sword (as opposed to
the standard blunted sword used for friendly dueling), the sword will also be poisoned (just
in case), and just to be safe, Claudius will get Hamlet to drink from a poisoned goblet of
wine.
J. The next thing we know, Ophelia has committed suicide or, has drowned by accident; it's
unclear because it happens off-stage and we hear about it from Gertrude, who may or may
not have been an eyewitness. But, since everyone thinks Ophelia committed suicide, she
gets a shoddy burial, as suicide was considered a terrible sin. Hamlet, who doesn't know
what's happened, is hanging out in the graveyard playing with skulls and contemplating
death when Ophelia's funeral begins. At the funeral, there's more talk about Ophelia's
"purity" and Laertes jumps into Ophelia's grave to hold her one last time. Hamlet runs over
and seems pretty distressed – he argues with Laertes over who loved Ophelia the most.
K. Just as we are wondering what happened on the boat to England, how Hamlet got back, and
where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have gone, Hamlet gets Horatio up to speed. On the
boat to England, Hamlet opened the letter that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were carrying
and found that it carried instructions to have him (Hamlet) killed. Naturally, Hamlet altered
the letter to say "Please kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, thanks," and escaped on a pirate
ship back to Denmark.
L. Onto the last scene: put your rain gear on because it's gonna be a bloodbath. During the
friendly duel between Hamlet and Laertes, everything goes according to Claudius's evil plan
until, uh oh, Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine. (Was it an accident? Or, did she
subconsciously do it to save her son? It's not entirely clear.) Meanwhile, Laertes cuts
Hamlet with the poisoned sword, and Hamlet, ending up with Laertes's sword, wounds him
back. All three have fallen to the floor by now. Before the end of the play, one more person
gets killed. Before he dies, Laertes yells out, "It's all Claudius's fault!" So, Hamlet stabs
Claudius with the poisoned sword and makes him drink the poisoned wine. Bloodbath
complete. Horatio's feeling left out and wants to kill himself too but Hamlet instructs him
that it's his job to tell Hamlet's story. While most characters are dying and/or dead,
Fortinbras of Norway walks in, steps over the blood and guts and bodies strewn out all over
the floor, and then helps himself to the Danish throne. Horatio and Fortinbras decide to put
all the dead bodies up on a "stage" for people to look at while Horatio tells Hamlet's story.
VI. Themes
A. Madness - Madness – both real and feigned – is at the heart of the play. Hamlet's "antic
disposition" has famously sparked a scholarly debate: Does Hamlet truly go "mad" or is it
all an act? An impossible mystery, it's one of many unanswered questions raised by the play.
Nevertheless, the complexity and sheer ambiguity of Hamlet's mental state and erratic
behavior is compelling and seems to speak to the play's overall atmosphere of uncertainty
and doubt. Ophelia's clear descent into madness (and subsequent drowning) is somewhat of
a different issue. Critics tend to agree that Ophelia seemingly cracks under the strain of
Hamlet's abuse and the weight of patriarchal forces, which has important implications for
the play's portrayal of "Gender" and "Sex."
B. Revenge - Hamlet gears up to be a traditional bloody revenge play – and then it stops. The
bulk of the play deals not with Hamlet's ultimately successful vengeance on his father's
murderer, but with Hamlet's inner struggle to take action. The play concludes with a
bloodbath that's typical of revenge tragedy, but Hamlet's infamous delay sets it apart from
anything that's come before it. Hamlet is also notable for the way it weaves together three
revenge plots, all of which involve sons seeking vengeance for their fathers' murders.
Ultimately, the play calls into question the validity and usefulness of revenge.
C. Mortality - Hamlet's musings on suicide, especially the "to be or not to be" speech, are
legendary and continue to direct discussions of the value of life and the mystery of death.
But Hamlet himself never commits suicide. It is Ophelia, who never mentions the
possibility of taking her own life, who drowns, seemingly as a result of some combination
of madness and despair. Death threads its way through the entirety of Hamlet, from the
opening scene's confrontation with a dead man's ghost to the bloodbath of the final scene,
which leaves almost every main character dead. Hamlet constantly contemplates death from
many angles. He is both seduced and repelled by the idea of suicide, but, in the famous
gravedigger scene, he is also fascinated by the physical reality of death. In a way, Hamlet
can be viewed as extended dialogue between Hamlet and death.
D. Religion - Hamlet is not necessarily a play about "religion" but it does register many of
religious ideologies and spiritual anxieties of the 16th century. Here we're talking about the
effects of the Protestant Reformation, and Christian ideas about "Mortality" and the
afterlife, all of which have major implications for the play's portrayal of the ghost. Hamlet is
also interesting for the way it weaves together Christian attitudes toward murder, suicide,
and revenge, which don't necessarily square with the basic tenets we typically find in the
"Genre" of Revenge Tragedy.
E. Lies/Deceit - Hamlet, more than almost any character in literature, hates deception and
craves honesty. It is one of the brilliant ironies of the play that Hamlet, an absolutist in his
quest for truth, is trapped in a seamy political world where deception is a necessary part of
life and political "spin" rules the day. This contrast, fascinating to the audience, is a torment
to Hamlet. Deception is necessary for and used by every character in Hamlet, for every
purpose ranging from love to parenting to regicide.
F. Sex/Sexuality - The motif of incest runs throughout the play and is frequently alluded to by
Hamlet and the ghost, most obviously in conversations about Gertrude and Claudius, the
former brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are now married. A subtle motif of incestuous
desire can be found in the relationship of Laertes and Ophelia, as Laertes sometimes speaks
to his sister in suggestively sexual terms and, at her funeral, leaps into her grave to hold her
in his arms. However, the strongest overtones of incestuous desire arise in the relationship
of Hamlet and Gertrude, in Hamlet’s fixation on Gertrude’s sex life with Claudius and his
preoccupation with her in general.
G. Family - Family is a significant theme in Hamlet. The play is notorious for the way it dwells
on the issue of incest – Gertrude's marriage to her dead husband's brother, Hamlet's fixation
on his mother, and even Laertes's obsession with Ophelia's sexuality. It's also important to
note how the play is particularly concerned with the way politics impact the dynamics of
family relationships, especially when domestic harmony is sacrificed for political gain. Also
of importance is the fact that Hamlet involves three revenge plots that all hinge on sons
avenging the deaths of their fathers.
Title:Invisible Man Author: Ralph Ellison Genre: Bildungsroman!

I. Characters
A. Narrator - The unnamed first person hero of Ellison's novel leads the reader through the
progression of events which follow the scene set by the Prologue, allowing us to see into his
thoughts, yet never telling us his name. As his life unfolds, the reader watches him bounce
from one group to another, from college to a paint factory to the Brotherhood, where each
time he is "included" in the group. As he moves through each group, he always takes on
another anonymous name. Only towards the end is he finally able to throw off all of his
cloaks of blind acceptance and conciliation. The state of the autonomy he finds is echoed in
the underground life which binds the story in the Prologue and the Epilogue. Through the
narrator, the reader becomes familiar with the other characters who shape and mold his
attitudes, justifying his philosophic self-explosion at the end of the novel.
B. Grandfather - The character who most fills the narrator's thoughts and fuels his fears
throughout the novel is his dead grandfather. Dying with bitter words on his lips, the
narrator feels his grandfather has never understood humanity but cannot help but be haunted
by his words and the meaning which seemed to flow from them. Irked that he seems to be
acting in accordance with his grandfather's wish to "yes" the white men to death, the
narrator imagines that his grandfather is laughing at him. The narrator's dream in which the
grandfather prophetizes that the narrator will be kept running surfaces many times in the
narrator's later life as he realizes that he has been blindly running from himself all of his
life.
C. The M.C. - The man announcing the scheduled activities at the battle royal at which the
narrator is forced to box, scramble for electrified money, and then give a speech to the most
renowned white men of his town is the M.C. The M.C. takes on the quality of a circus
ringleader by coercing the boys to move from one showcase of entertainment for the white
audience to another.
D. Tatlock - The narrator is left to fight Tatlock one on one as he does not realize the other boys
have left the ring of the battle royal. Tatlock is the biggest of the boys and refuses to fake
punching the narrator out when asked. When the narrator finally falls at one of the punches,
Tatlock wins the prize. He later resurfaces in the narrator's thoughts as he comes to
symbolize blind, brutal strength.
E. Superintendent - The man who invites the narrator to the hotel to deliver his speech without
giving him any foreknowledge of the battle royal, he is blamed most by the reader for the
humiliation which follows. After the narrator gives his oration, he presents the boy with a
leather briefcase in which he finds a scholarship to the state college for Negroes. So pleased
by the scholarship, the narrator holds no resentment toward the superintendent.
F. Mr. Norton - One of the old, rich, white benefactors of the narrator's college, he is driven
around by the narrator when he visits. He believes he has created a positive future for the
black students of the college and the black race in general. He shows real interest in hearing
Trueblood's story and in the lives of the mental patients at the Golden Day when the narrator
is forced to stop at these places along their drive. He stands up for the narrator when he is
punished by the school for his treatment of Mr. Norton on the drive, but to no avail. The
narrator looks back on Mr. Norton more and more as part of the artificial system represented
by the college. He faces him in person one last time in the Epilogue where Mr. Norton can
only act alarmed and confused.
G. Dr. Bledsoe - Admired originally by the narrator, the college president has a much different
public and private persona. Publicly he accommodates his white benefactors, however
privately he is manipulating their interests in order to further his means and those of the
college. He expels the narrator for showing Mr. Norton dangerous aspects of the school's
environment, sending him to New York with letters to future employers. His intention is to
trick him into staying away from the school forever.
H. Jim Trueblood - A poor black sharecropper who lives near the college with his family, he
falls into disgrace shortly before being visited by Mr. Norton and the narrator. Jim's story is
that during a sexual dream, he somehow ended up pushing himself onto his teenage
daughter sleeping next to him. Impregnating his wife, who comes close to killing him for
the crime against their daughter, and his own daughter, Trueblood stays with his family to
support them. He is surprised by the increased generosity the whites of the town show him
after the incident.
I. Mattie Lou Trueblood - Trueblood's daughter, Mattie Lou is impregnated by her father.
J. Kate Trueblood - Trueblood's wife, she first tries to shoot him and then uses an ax to strike
him in the face. She finally resolves to live with him as he will not leave and promises to
support them.
K. Big Halley - The owner of the brothel/gambling house known as the Golden Day, he refuses
to give the narrator a drink to bring out for Mr. Norton but administers to him inside. He
tries to keep order in his establishment but will only go so far to help the narrator out when
Mr. Norton loses consciousness.
L. Supercargo - A giant black man, he is the attendant supervising the mental patients present
at the Golden Day. Without his uniform on, however, he is not able to keep control of the
group. The patients sense his lack of power and attack him, knocking him unconscious.
M. Vet Doctor - Never given a name, he is a doctor who attends to Mr. Norton after Mr. Norton
faints during the attack on Supercargo at the Golden Day. Seemingly sane at first, he
increasingly alarms the narrator and Mr. Norton by touching upon the "invisibility" of the
narrator. He is also on the bus the next morning as the narrator leaves the school for New
York. He has been transferred due to his conversation with Mr. Norton. During the ride, he
predicts the open yet innately hidden life the narrator will continue to lead in New York.
N. Reverend Barbee - A moving orator, he speaks at the chapel to the members of the college
and visiting trustees. His speech centers around the founder of the college and the greatness
of his vision which he and Dr. Bledsoe have attempted to continue. Described as buddha-
like, the orator intensifies the narrator's deep love for the college, making it even harder to
deal with his fate of expulsion. Barbee is blind.
O. Crenshaw - The attendant who accompanies the vet doctor on the bus where they meet the
narrator. He refuses to support or encourage any of the vet's claims.
P. Ras the Exhorter/Destroyer - Taking primarily the first title, but the second as the story
progresses, Ras is the main black opponent to the Brotherhood whom the narrator has to
deal with in Harlem. He espouses his beliefs loudly in the streets of Harlem, claims to be
from the West Indies, and calls the narrator a traitor for not militantly supporting his race
against the white establishment. He is first viewed when the narrator enters the city but
becomes a much stronger force once he has joined the Brotherhood and stands in opposition
to him. His supporters try to beat up black Brothers on numerous occasions and his tactics
become more extreme as the book progresses. Once the brotherhood pulls its support out of
Harlem, his power grows until he leads a race riot on horseback in the garb of an Abyssinian
chieftain. As the Destroyer on this night, he orders for the narrator to be hanged. In
primitive response, the narrator throws a spear at him which cleaves through his jaw.
Q. Mr. Emerson - The last potential employer whom the narrator has a letter to give from Dr.
Bledsoe, Emerson is scheduled to meet with the narrator about a job. Upon arrival at the
office, the narrator is intercepted by Emerson's son who reads the letter to uncover the cruel
trick which Bledsoe has organized: the letter says not to hire the narrator. Disillusioned by
its contents, the son tries to talk the narrator into going to another college but only frustrates
him. Finally, he shows the narrator the letter. The son feels his position is worse than the
narrator's however, since Emerson is his father.
R. Mr. Kimbro - The narrator's first boss at the Liberty Paints plant, Kimbro is called the
"terrible" and "Colonel" by the employees. He gives the narrator the job of mixing in the
last ingredient of their famed white paint, but does not stand for questions or hesitations.
When the narrator is confused by one of his snappy orders and make a wrong decision,
Kimbro is angry and passes him on to another part of the plant.
S. Mr. Brockway - The next boss at the plant, Brockway is used to working alone, filling the
job of engineer by virtue of his having worked at the factory for so long and knowing it so
well. He is paranoid that the narrator wants his job and explodes when he learns that he has
been to a union meeting, even if by accident. Brockway attacks him and the narrator fights
back, fending him off. Because of the lapse of attention to his job during the fight,
Brockway blames the narrator for the overheated boilers and laughs when running out just
before they burst.
T. Hospital Director - Interviewing the narrator upon his exit from the plant's hospital, he
notifies the narrator that he can no longer work at the plant. He reminds the narrator of the
hypocrisy he found at the college and is asked by the narrator if he knows Mr. Norton and
Dr. Bledsoe.
U. Mary Rambo - Mary steps into the narrator's life after he leaves the hospital and is feeling
faint. She takes him to her house until he feels better and offers him a place to stay
permanently. Mary is a strong, independent woman who feels that it is very important that
the narrator do something significant to further his race. Even when he cannot pay the rent,
she continues to care for him, cook for him, and encourage him. After he must leave her to
join the Brotherhood, the narrator often refers to a pull that he feels back to Mary's house
whenever he is in a time of need.
V. Brother Jack - The consummate, white leader of the Brotherhood, he first approaches the
narrator because of his rallying speech at the scene of an eviction. Once the narrator agrees
to join the Brotherhood, Jack ushers him into his world, giving him a new home address, a
new name, and a job to arouse and lead the people of Harlem through the teaching of the
Brotherhood. The strong hand of control that Jack wields only gives the narrator necessary
information. He heads up the committee of the Brotherhood which twice interrogates the
narrator on choices he makes. His hold over the narrator falls away when he admits to him
that he is not meant to think. After this point, the narrator sees Jack as the head of another
oppressive monster of which he must free himself.
W. Emma - Jack's well dressed, handsome mistress, Emma holds a coveted position and is one
of the first to introduce the narrator into his new lifestyle at the Chthonian Hotel. She is
indiscrete in asking Jack if the narrator is black enough to fulfill the role they want for him
within his hearing distance.
X. Brother Hambro - This brother is a teacher whom the narrator is sent to for the first few
months of his new employment in order to train in the ways of the Brotherhood. He is later
revisited when the narrator is called back to take on the problems in Harlem with a broader,
more vague agenda. Hambro's lawyer mind cannot satisfy the narrator at this point in the
narrative, however, as he can only provide narrow, scientifically based answers formed by
the committee apart from real life as the narrator has begun to see it.
Y. Brother Tarp - Older but very dedicated to the Harlem chapter of the Brotherhood, Tarp is
quickly liked and trusted by the narrator. He can rely on Tarp to answer any questions or
concerns he has of the area. Tarp also can trust in the narrator and entrusts with him a chain
link that he broke off to escape from a chain gang to which he had been bound to for
nineteen years. The narrator keeps the link with him at all times.
Z. Tod Clifton - The leader of the youth of Harlem, Clifton becomes a friend and mentor of the
narrator after a quick fear of his being a rival. Clifton is tall and handsome and very
influential in his district. He often gets into disputes and clashes with Ras the Exhorter, who
feels that he is a traitor to his black race. Clifton strangely disappears from the Brotherhood
while the narrator is away from Harlem. He is discovered by the narrator to be dishonorably
selling dancing, paper Sambo dolls in the street. He is senselessly killed when trying to
resist arrest by police for his street selling. The narrator uses this murder to rally the people
of Harlem around his funeral, but is later chastised by the Brotherhood for highlighting a
man who would be caught in such a degrading act. The race riot also has Clifton's name
incited as a reason behind it.
AA. Brother Wrestrum - Identified by the narrator as a meddler, Wrestrum criticizes many of
the narrator's leadership qualities. The first committee interrogation that the narrator is
called into is started by Wrestrum who claims he has given a biased interview, highlighting
himself and not the Brotherhood. Though the committee finds no real veracity in the claim,
his actions result in the narrator being moved temporarily downtown to speak on the
Woman Question.
BB. Rich woman - Another character never named, the married white woman he meets at his
first lecture on the Woman Question invites the narrator back to her home for drink and
discussion. Seductively, she moves him into her bedroom and is not phased by her husband
returning home later in the night. The narrator remains paranoid after leaving her and feels
that the Brotherhood may know and could use this affair against him.
CC. Brother Maceo - After returning to Harlem, the narrator is disappointed to find that
Maceo has not been to the Jolly Dollar Bar for awhile. Once the movement in Harlem
begins to pick up again he too returns. He fails to recognize the narrator when he is wearing
the sunglasses and hat that resemble the dress of Rinehart and they almost get into a fight.
DD. Barrelhouse - The owner of the Jolly Dollar, he is instrumental in defusing the tensions
when the narrator returns to the bar after his sojourn downtown. He also kicks the narrator
out of the bar when Maceo and other customers think that the narrator is Rinehart, saving
them from a fight.
EE. Brother Tobitt - A Brother on the committee, he speaks up during the interrogation of the
narrator concerning Clifton's funeral. The two are at odds as Tobitt feels he has greater
liberty to speak from a black perspective since his wife is black, and uses this to arrogantly
argue with the narrator over his motives.
FF. Rinehart - An apparently cynical, manipulative member of the Harlem community, the
narrator never meets the actual Rinehart. By wearing dark green shades and a big hat for a
disguise, people in the streets recognize him as the man Rinehart. Through their perceptions
of him, the narrator sees how Rinehart has taken on the conflicting identities of zootsuiter,
player, and Reverend in order to manipulate as many people as possible. He opens the
narrator's eyes to a new meaning of identity and cynicism.
GG. Sybil - Chosen as the woman the narrator hopes to get information out of, Sybil does not
know much of what her husband George thinks on Brotherhood matters. She is an easy
choice for the narrator because she was a lonely, misunderstood married woman who was
often quite tipsy at Brotherhood functions. Sybil becomes very drunk when they meet and
tries to coerce the narrator to rape her as she has always fantasized.When he is called
uptown for a Brotherhood crisis, he tries to send her home but she shows up on the street
corner in Harlem before he is finally able to convince her to leave.
HH. Dupre - The man leading a group of men during the rioting in Harlem at the end of the
novel, Dupre's biggest plan is to set fire to the apartment building they and their families
live in. Once the narrator joins their group, he leads them into looting the materials needed
for the fire and carries out the building's destruction.
II. Scofield - The member of Dupre's group who helps the narrator when he is nearly shot in
the riot, he is the narrator's closest connection to the looting men.Scofield sticks by the
narrator through the plan to destroy the building, but loses him when the narrator returns to
the building for his briefcase. The narrator calls him his friend.
JJ. Dehart - Convincing his wife to stay in the middle of the riot, his words jump out at the
narrator who is finally able to put the event of the day and of the way in which he has run
his life into perspective. The narrator realizes that he has been a tool of the Brotherhood.
II. Perspective/ Point(s) of view
A. First Person - The invisible man is our narrator throughout the entire novel, sandwiching the
bulk of his story with a prologue and epilogue from his manhole. Since we hear his story
from his point of view, we can't be sure whether all the memories are entirely factual.
Instead, we understand the story to be his perception; he is speaking out about his
experiences and, as he says in the epilogue, hopefully shedding light on things we might not
have realized, or perhaps helping us feel more connected with similar experiences. Even
though the story is told with other readers in mind, this is very much our narrator's show –
it's his personal development that we witness, and no one else's. This treatment of other
characters actually mirrors the way he himself has been treated; aside from the narrator,
everyone in Invisible Man is pretty one-dimensional. Instead of complex individuals, we
have set types: a member of the black establishment, a wealthy white philanthropist, a black
nationalist, a utopian visionary, and so on.
B. Jazzy - A life-long lover of jazz, Ellison conceived of Invisible Man as jazz's literary
equivalent. By turns sad, playful, shy, loud, fast-paced, drawing on different styles and
traditions of writing, weaving constant refrains throughout the book, and creating a whole
new aesthetic, the novel doesn't just have a style, it's got style.
III. Symbols
A. Paints / The color white - The narrator's first job is in a highly patriotic paint company most
famous for its Optic White paint color. In order to create this pure white, the narrator is
instructed to add ten black drops of toner into each bucket. Could this possibly have
anything to do with black/white relations in America? Great question. We think that this
paint business demonstrates the necessity of the black contribution to white America –
although America is often thought of as a white man's country, America would not be
America without the contributions of black people. Taking another angle, the name "Liberty
Paints" is ironic since it implies freedom for all, which is clearly not the experience of the
narrator throughout this entire story.
B. Sight/Blindness - When there's a lot of talk about eyeballs in a book called Invisible Man,
you know something's up with sight. Reverend Barbee gives a crowd-pleasing speech
praising the Founder of the college only to later reveal that he is a blind man. Then Brother
Jack turns out to have a false left eye. This shows the flawed nature of their visions –
Barbee gave a great speech praising an institution and man that are basically shams, and
Jack espouses a horribly cold ideology.As for the narrator, he comes to believe himself an
invisible man because no one actually sees him for who he is – but as someone of whom
they can take advantage. Realizing this social invisibility, the narrator decides to pair it with
actual invisibility, and drops out of sight for an indeterminate amount of time.
C. Briefcase - We think it's symbolic that the narrator receives the briefcase as a naïve kid, and
then hangs onto it for the rest of the novel. Emblematic of his past vulnerability, eagerness
to please, and youthful ambitions, his final loss of the briefcase suggests a complete
severance of ties to his youthful past and a true rebirth.
IV.Plot
A. The narrator introduces himself right off the bat as an invisible man. He lives off the grid, in
a warm hole in the ground where he is hibernating in anticipation of future direct, visible
action. But before all this direct, visible action happens, he needs to detail his road to
recognizing his invisibility. We get a temporal context when we learn that the narrator's
grandparents were former slaves freed after the Civil War. On his deathbed, the narrator's
grandfather, who had been considered a meek man, confesses anger towards the white-
controlled system and advocates using the system against them. The narrator dismisses his
grandfather's words and goes on to live a meek and obedient life as a model black student.
After writing a successful speech on the importance of humility to black progress (i.e., the
idea that blacks can progress as long as they recognize whites as superior), he is invited to
give the speech to leaders of his town. The narrator is super excited to give this speech.
B. The narrator recalls that the college grounds were beautiful (remember this whole story is
being told by a guy currently living in a manhole). He remains a model student and aspires
one day to work with Dr. Bledsoe, who heads the school. When he is selected to drive Mr.
Norton, one of the school's founders and a rich white millionaire, around the grounds, the
narrator is excited. And then things go horribly wrong. The two visit old slave quarters and
hear the story of a man named Trueblood, who apparently impregnated his daughter. In need
of some… uh… fortifying liquids, Mr. Norton orders the narrator to take him to the nearest
bar. This happens to be an insane-asylum-and-bar hybrid. Well, so much for the narrator
someday working with Dr. Bledsoe – the guy kicks him out of school and tells him to go
look for work in Harlem, New York. He hands the narrator some letters of recommendation
and wishes him luck.
C. A friendly, motherly woman named Mary Rambo takes the narrator into her house and, for
lack of a less clichéd phrase, believes in him. This belief is borne out when the narrator
witnesses an old black couple getting evicted on the streets and feels compelled to give an
awesome impromptu speech (to a listening audience, no less). One of those listening is a
white man named Brother Jack, who initiates the narrator into the Brotherhood, a multi-
racial organization with communist undercurrents. Sorry. Make that THE
BROTHERHOOD. The narrator moves out of Mary's house, makes some good money, and
learns the ways of the Brotherhood. He makes some excellent speeches (to people that
listen), and gains increasing prestige within the Harlem community. Big mistake,
apparently. The Brotherhood re-assigns the narrator to attend to women's issues downtown,
which is equivalent to your tropical swimsuit company transferring you to Juneau, Alaska.
D. The Brotherhood summons the narrator to a meeting during which they chastise him for
taking matters into his own hands. They call Clifton a traitor for selling the racist Sambo
dolls, and they reprimand the narrator for organizing a public funeral. Apparently, public
demonstrations are no longer part of the Brotherhood agenda. Brother Jack instructs the
narrator to visit Brother Hambro, who will outline the new program. The narrator decides to
visit Brother Hambro that night, but on the way, he bumps into Ras the Exhorter, a black
nationalist who conveniently uses the situation to stir up anti-Brotherhood sentiment. It's a
bit of a dangerous situation for the narrator, who sees two men ready to follow him into a
who-knows-what kind of dark alley. Deciding that a disguise would be the best course of
action, the narrator purchases a prop or two and promptly starts being mistaken for a man
called Rinehart. This Rinehart character is a reverend, a gambler, a fighter, and a pimp,
among other identities.
E.
The narrator realizes that he can have multiple identities – that's the benefit of being
invisible. Deciding to discuss the idea with Hambro, the narrator meets up with Hambro and
learns that the Brotherhood is planning to sacrifice the people of Harlem in service of a
greater, unnamed cause. The narrator decides to spy on the Brotherhood and figure out their
true intentions, but is unsuccessful.
F. Harlem erupts into a race riot, and the narrator speculates that this was the Brotherhood plan
all along. Extremely upset, he continues running down the streets of Harlem as Ras the
Exhorter (now Ras the Destroyer) urges further destruction. Ras calls for the narrator to be
apprehended, but the narrator eludes capture after a brief confrontation. He tries to go to
Mary's house, but ends up falling down a manhole. When he awakens, he realizes the full
extent of the Brotherhood manipulation and gets VERY pissed off. He realizes he needs a
plan of action and decides to hibernate until then. He tells us that writing his story was
helpful, and that he's ready to come out of hibernation. He wonders if his story is speaking
for us as well as himself.
V. Themes
A. Identity - Identity in Invisible Man is a conflict between self-perception and the projection
of others, as seen through one man's story: the nameless narrator. His true identity, he
realizes, is in fact invisible to those around him. Only by intentionally isolating himself
from society can he grapple with and come to understand himself.
B. Race - While most the narrator's difficulties throughout the novel are associated with his
race, Invisible Man is a novel aimed at transcending race and all the other ways humanity
has used to categorize people. For a long time, the narrator's identity is defined by his race,
leading to his invisibility.
C. Lies/Deceit - Invisible Man is about the process of overcoming deceptions and illusions to
reach truth. (One of the most important truths in the book is that the narrator is invisible to
those around him.) In Invisible Man, then, deception is closely linked with invisibility.
Because various people cannot see the narrator for who he is, they use him to suit their own
purposes. As often as he is deceived, however, the narrator does some deceiving of his own,
ultimately concluding that the ease with which he deceives people points to his invisibility.
D. The Past - Most of Invisible Man takes place in the narrator's memory, which inherently
brings up issues of how well memory works – in other words, the nameless narrator
character is choosing specific scenes to portray in specific ways; the entire novel is written
from his perspective. Aside from this observation, memory and the past are also important
in the novel as the narrator reflects on his past and uses the perspective to derive new
feelings and opinions on his experiences. Although the Brotherhood tells him to put aside
his past, we see that the narrator's personal journey requires him to square with his past, to
acknowledge and embrace it.
E. Power – Knowledge is power. Power infuses nearly all of the relationships depicted in
Invisible Man. More specifically, white male power threads its way throughout the novel.
Even in situations where there are no white males present, it's clear that white males hold
the power. Other people who hold any form of power – Dr. Bledsoe, the narrator for a
period of time, and Brother Clifton – hold it only through the largesse or "generosity" of
white men.

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