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Notes on Invisible Man Themes

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Invisible Man Topic Tracking: Betrayal

Chapter 1

Betrayal 1: Much of the Invisible Man's experience is betrayal by the people and ideals that he trusts. It begins when the narrator goes to the men's club expecting to give his speech and feeling honored at the respect that such an invitation implies. When he arrives at the club, he sees that the only reason he's there is to entertain the white men of the town with his own humiliation.

Chapter 2

Betrayal 2: Trueblood betrays his race because in the eyes of his people, he diminishes every positive thing that black people have accomplished by committing the foul sin of incest.

Chapter 6

Betrayal 3: Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator that he has betrayed his race and his college by showing Mr. Norton, a wealthy white man, the defective members of their race. He says that the narrator has set back the work of the college because he has shown Mr. Norton too much.

Chapter 9

Betrayal 4: Dr. Bledsoe betrays the narrator by letting him believe that he's going to write letters of recommendation to help him out when really the man's purpose is just to send him as far away from the school as possible and leave him stranded. This particularly wounds the narrator because he had looked up to Dr. Bledsoe as someone whom he aspired to be like.

Chapter 18

Betrayal 5: The narrator is betrayed by one of the Brotherhood when he is accused of using his position in the Communist group to further his own importance. The fact that it was a black man who made the accusations is all the more cutting because the narrator didn't expect one of his own to try to bring him down.

Chapter 20

Betrayal 6: The narrator feels betrayed when he sees Clifton selling Sambo dolls. The promising young man is now promoting an image that hinders the black race because it encourages an idea of submission and dominance over black people. To see someone with such potential to be a leader peddling such a destructive idea makes the narrator feel cheated.

Betrayal 7: As the narrator walks through Harlem he realizes that he has betrayed the people there because all of his speeches haven't helped them at all. He's been promising them help and change, but he's really done nothing but talk.

Chapter 22

Betrayal 8: The Brotherhood feels that the narrator was wrong to give Clifton a hero's funeral because Clifton betrayed the Communist and his own race because he sold those Sambo dolls. The narrator feels betrayed by the Brotherhood because they won't help, lead, or support the people of Harlem when they are ready to act.

Chapter 23

Betrayal 9: The Brotherhood has betrayed the narrator and the people of Harlem because they are planning to shift away from the promises of help and support that they've given to Harlem in favor of furthering the power of the Brotherhood politically. Instead of keeping their word, the Communists are ditching the black people so that they can gain recognition in some more significant way.

Chapter 25

Betrayal 10: The narrator has been betrayed completely by the Brotherhood and he has betrayed his people by being a puppet for the Brotherhood. When he falls into the manhole and can't get out, he thinks about all the betrayal that he's faced and decides that it's better to stay in a dark hole in the ground than to resurface only to be betrayed again.

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