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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Reader's Diary #2011- Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man

I know schools have a bad reputation for ruining novels but Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is one I wish I'd read in such an environment.

Featuring the perspectives of a black man in 1930s U.S., it was hard at times for me to fully grasp the significance of the setting. How would it compare to today? At times characters came across as caricatures; was this intentional or just the 21st Century, Canadian white male lens?

This is not to say I didn't enjoy the book because I did a great deal. I suspect there are a lot of important themes that readers could take away but for me, and especially relevant to our current times, the idea of maintaining/submitting our identity while assisting progressive groups was especially provocative. Sometimes it feels like you have to agree with every single stance of a group or else you're a traitor to the cause. You must become invisible to an extent. (For the unfamiliar, Ellison uses "invisible" in the figurative sense and the book should not be confused with the sci-fi The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.)

I was also equal parts compelled by and frustrated by the narrator's point of view. I don't recall ever feeling as claustrophobic with such a perspective before. It was so insular, so void of outside interpretation or details it could become confusing at time. Yet, it was also effective for those very reasons; if the narrator was bewildered, then so was I! Never have I had first person pov feel so much like a second person narrative.

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