I believe that this is in response to prompt 2.
I had read Invisible Man once before I ventured into it for this class. It struck me then as a confusing science fiction novel about social justice; an important book to read, but a very dense one, nonetheless. While re-reading Ellison, I noticed that Ellison “genre-bent” a good deal, so to speak. I cannot believe how much of the piece was lost on me, simply because I looked at this book from a single lens.
The book originally began to lose me when it spoke of the “battle royale”. Until this point, I had been taking the book very literally. I thought it highly unlikely that a young person would be put in a situation where he would be tortured physically and mentally in order to have his voice heard. I then realized that I was looking for science fiction when I should have been looking for race. From that moment forth, the book was extremely engaging, especially in moments of dischord with reality.
Another moment of confusion to me was at the factory, where the protagonist made white paint. He suffers an accident, and is then taken to a hospital where he undergoes a strange and never explained procedure. I still don’t know quite what to make of it. Ellison’s protagonist was held against his will, experimented on in a way reminiscent of Schuyler’s Black No More, and speaks of a man being hypnotized and losing his identity by having another shoved into him. This moment seems to me to be an internal identity crisis brought on by the clashing of his “home” identity with his “city” identity. The lab coats sort of just made this crisis physical and a bit disconcerting. Was Ellison trying to make his readers uncomfortable by conjuring up white lab coats? Is this meant to be taken literally? I find that this book is most readily understandable when the science friction elements are treated as ways to get the audience to understand that something is wrong with a certain image. In this way, Ellison makes way for social justice with science fiction.
I’m the kind of person who can read a book filled with sex and violence and all of it passes quietly over my head. I usually don’t realize that something is up until someone else points out the blatant thing that I’ve somehow missed. Ellison has no patience for people like me. Everything from the University with its mysterious “Founder” to the “Brotherhood” seemed to scream at me to recognize the satire. I don’t know what these things are meant to be, but I don’t doubt that I’m missing out on some huge joke. I feel as if Ellison writes for an inside crowd, and doesn’t give two cents about what anyone else thinks about the novel. He doesn’t pander to the audience, which I can appreciate, and not appreciate at the same time.
I think that the fast pace of events works well to capture the attention of anyone reading this work The quick shifts into and out of reality serve to keep readers on their toes This is not what I would call a subtle book Everything is stated but what the author deems too obvious to illuminate on.
Am I implying that Ellison is not without an ego? Perhaps. I think it’s more that Ellison is unapologetic, which is rare in a novel about race and possibly science fiction. Though Ellison’s protagonist claims not to be a “spook”(3), many elements of science fiction are woven into his character. He is nameless, lives underground, and manages to go unnoticed in crowds. Again, I wonder if this is science fiction or political allegory.
By taking the sections that confused me most about this book and looking at them through a new lens, I have been able to read this book in a way that does it more justice. I feel as if I’m still rather lost while trying to read this book, which is a new sensation for me as a person who considers herself to be a decent close-reader. I can only imagine what else this novel is offering that still eludes me. I look forward to trying to figure it out in another read!