My Emotional Response to Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Do not mistake Invisible Man for The Invisible Man.  These are two completely different books.  The man in the second book, written by H.G. Wells, literally becomes invisible; but the man in the first book only feels that way to the rest of the world.

My copy of Invisible Man is almost 600 pages, and it took me a long while to get through it. There were days I could not put it down and days I made excuses to finish it.

My first response was to feel put off by some of the language and and a couple of inappropriate situations. I had to white out the blasphemy because I don't like it.

The plot moved quickly from one problem to the next, but the longwinded speeches, sermons, and soliloquies dragged on from time to time.  Some were good lectures - don't get me wrong; but they went on far too long for my attention span.

Sometimes the story made me tired and angry of the racism, again, and yet other times I was persuaded by the main character's arguments.  I went back and forth between liking him and hating him, even within the same chapter on the very same page.

And there were times when I really loved Ellison's writing: no wonder we had to read Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway to prepare us for that stream of consciousness; however, Ellison certainly does not use it to the extend that Woolf did.  His stream was much more cohesive.  But it was enjoyable at times.

Unfortunately, the issues within this novel were often inappropriate, infuriating, convoluted, or absurd; it frustrated me.  Now I am so grateful to be done with it.  So in the next few days, I will attempt to get through the Well-Educated Mind questions, and then I'll be able to begin my next novel on the list.


  1. I've never read Invisible Man (or The Invisible Man either) but your review made me think of my response to Walden Two by B.F. Skinner. Exploring a utopian society is an interesting subject but I think Skinner liked to hear himself theorize too much and, for me, the novel became more about him and his theories than his characters. There were parts I liked and thought he made good points, but there were also parts I hated and, yet again, parts I thought just ridiculous.

    I'm intrigued by your review of Invisible Man though (books you dislike can often generate as much dialogue and thoughts as books you like) so I'm going to put it on my to-read list!

    1. Oh, I agree. I often have more to say about books that I totally disagree with, though this one was half and half.

      I had never heard of Walden Two, but it looks like it would be something I would get into. It sounds like Brave New World or 1984, some of my favorite weird books.

  2. I've found this novel difficult as well (I'm still reading it). The profanity and inappropriate situations are not something I like in my literature but I have to admit that his writing does draw you in to the character's world.

    1. Right before I started reading Invisible Man, a friend gave me one of these Bic Wite-Out EZcorrect tools because I lent her my copy of The Stranger and she saw I had darkened some words with a pen; she thought the white out tool would serve better. Sure enough, I think the first chapter I began using it. It really came in handy.

      Honestly, Invisible Man was shocking in some areas, and I am wondering if the other books in the list are going to get worse.

  3. Hello Ruth. You were the only person besides myself at the Classics Club to have reviewed Invisible Man, so I am back again to compare notes. (and not that I mind that at all, I always appreciate your view, but I do try to compare with a diversity of readers) Someone said, if two people agree all the time, one of them is unnecessary. (I can't attribute the quotation, though it sounds very Will Rogers-esque to me.) Anyway an excellent review. I thought this was a fascinating book....good for me to learn how the "other half lives" sort of thing. I just wish it had wider acclaim. As we've discussed, it would be nice to see a faithful movie rendition. Merry Christmas in case we don't bump into each other again in cyber-space before we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

    1. Merry Christmas, Joseph!

      I reread my response to Invisible Man, and if I didn't know any better, I'd say I probably didn't care for it; but as I was wrapping up TWEM questions, I ended up analyzing the book completely differently from this post. I agreed with the author tremendously.

      This was a profound work. It would be great to see a well-done film version of it.