Notes on Invisible Man Themes

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Invisible Man Topic Tracking: Invisible


Invisible 1: The narrator feels invisible because no one sees him for himself. Instead, people see him as a black man and leave it at that. They look no deeper and no further into who he is, and so now he hibernates in a secret room in the basement of a building full of white tenants. He hides there in preparation for some sort of action, some attempt to make himself seen, although he's not sure yet what that is.

Chapter 3

Invisible 2: The war vet explains the idea of invisibility when he talks about how black men are expected to repress their emotions and thoughts and follow the instructions that white people give them. Because of this subjugation, they become less than human in a way, and therefore become invisible.

Chapter 6

Invisible 3: The narrator is invisible because he is powerless to help himself even though Dr. Bledsoe lied about not expelling him. Although the young man wants to protest the dishonesty, there is nothing he can do about it because he is not in a position of authority and so he doesn't exist.

Chapter 8

Invisible 4: The narrator is initially pleased by the way that white and black people live side by side in New York. Then he comes to realize that although the people of color aren't necessarily spoken down to and mistreated as obviously as they are in the South, they aren't acknowledged any more in New York than they are in the South either.

Chapter 13

Invisible 5: After the narrator speaks to the crowd at the eviction, he seems to lose some of his invisibility because he can't just disappear into the crowd. Brother Jack seeks him out to become a speaker for the local Communist group, so because the young man had a voice in front of the crowd, he's visible now.

Chapter 15

Invisible 6: When the narrator tries to get rid of the broken cast-iron bank, he can't seem to get by with it. He's no longer invisible and inconspicuous enough to just drop the bank in the street without anyone noticing or to put it in someone's trash can. He seems to be noticed everywhere he goes now.

Chapter 17

Invisible 7: The narrator has lost all of his invisibility now because he is well known among the city's leaders and the people of Harlem. His position with the Brotherhood has given him fame, a voice, and power, and so his invisibility is lost temporarily.

Chapter 22

Invisible 8: The narrator wants to leave the Brotherhood because he begins to see how they are trying to manipulate him and the people of Harlem rather than helping them. Unfortunately, the narrator knows that if he leaves the Brotherhood, he'll be invisible again because he will no longerhave a well-known name or a voice.

Chapter 23

Invisible 9: The narrator realizes that even while he felt visible and empowered because of his position with the Brotherhood, he was really only a puppet being controlled by the committee. Now his true powerlessness has been revealed to him when he learns that the Brotherhood is going to quit working for Harlem and move in another direction. The narrator realizes that he never really had the ability to help Harlem because he was just a figurehead for the Brotherhood.


Invisible 10: The narrator has been invisible since he went underground because he was so disgusted with the betrayal he'd experienced. Now he has decided to come out of his hibernation and join the world again not as an invisible man who conforms to the expectations of white society, but as an individual who, in his most basic sense, is a human and therefore the voice of all humanity.

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