Critical Reading: Invisible Man, By Ralph Ellison

1183 words - 5 pages

“I looked at Ras on his horse and at their handful of guns …” With only thirteen words, a minefield of images from the narrator’s voice tells of an underlying story. “I.” This pronoun speaks volumes of who’s words and who’s voice will lead us through the, apparently, important story that is to follow. The scene that is painted for the readers in the very beginning is that of post-medieval violence. “Guns” do not invoke carefree, cheerful images, but those of terror and death; adrenaline. The “I” of this tale wants to share a terrifyingly significant story. To see the full meaning, we must delve much deeper and discover who Ras is, why our narrator is looking up at them, and what events have taken place thus far for this moment to occur. Why is this story important to the narrator?
From reading a little further, the readers can catch a glimpse of the gender of the intellectual voice. “…handful of guns and recognized the absurdity of the whole night and of the simple yet confoundingly complex arrangement of hope and desire, fear and hate...” This voice speaking to us is that of an educated female. The quote “…absurdity of the whole night …” leads the reader to believe that she is a ‘thinker’, someone who continually ponders past events. Most people would not try to recall memories of the past unless an event occurred that was very memorable and/or distasteful. The narrator focuses on the tiniest of descriptions and elaborates, but speaks in a way as to let the readers know she has had a formal education. A male would rather speak of an exact number of guns, rather than comment on the amount as that of being a “handful”. A male would also not describe the events of the night with such word choices as “hope and desire”, and would not add the extra word “whole”. This due to being under the assumption that “night” entitles every aspect of it; they would not feel the need to clarify what was said. Femininity is also most often associated with those words.
After reading through the whole passage though, the cautious observer would also notice another clue to the narrator’s un-announced gender; they are “running” from an issue and not confronting it. The idea of a person who has been fleeing from tyrannical male characters, and is now hiding out of their view, seems distinctly feminine. The narrator is “still running” after she “looked at Ras”, which implies this assumption. If she were brought “here still running”, the narrator has been chased for awhile and it was not an isolated event. This has happened for a period of time.
Over the course of the time spent running, she has run out of breath and the fluid, conscious, train of thought has been affected. This is evident by the way she speaks in an exasperated tone as she states “…and knowing now who I was and where I was and knowing too that I had no longer to run for or from …”. As she is speaking throughout the passage though, there are no periods; the paragraph is one compete sentence. This...

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