Friday, August 24, 2018

Final Discussions!

Teagle Bougere, Court Theatre, Chicago
Thanks to all for a great final round of discussions!  Just a sampling of things we discussed:

On the Epilogue:

Epilogue - he’s learned to think for himself

Epilogue didn’t have the depth and the imagery of the prologue
The reader was supposed to resolve it for himself

It wasn’t supposed to be resolved

The lower frequencies are humanity - his and ours

Invisible Man can’t really internalize his grandfather’s words until the end

The last pages were difficult - there’s nothing happening - difficult to focus

There were a lot of digressions - you needed to find the narrative thread

He came to the realization that you can’t stay in hibernation forever
Louis Armstrong wouldn’t throw the bad air out - because that’s what makes the music
Last page: “ is this which frightens me: Who knows but that… why is he frightened?  It’s a possible burden to advocate for others, and knowledge is frightening

Epilogue is anti-climactic

Did he write the epilogue before writing the middle?

The ending is unsatisfying - you know the ending is coming, but as he gets more involved in the world, the contrast is very strange

On Women in Invisible Man:

Ellison’s feelings about women remind me of the movie Crash - a lot of misconceptions, a lot of complicated motives - the portrayals are not simple

Does Sybil have to be intoxicated to get Invisible Man to compromise his integrity?  The intoxication is important

Sybil and her request - it’s making stereotypes / myths of both white women and black men

Do the women need to be in the story?  Are there any fully rounded women in the novel?  Even Mary is a stereotype, albeit a positive one

He started out trying to use Sybil, but she ultimately tries to use him

I don’t think he sees women as being actual people

Sybil - the character - she’s like a prophetess

On Invisible Man's future:

When he leaves the underground, will he really change?  He might think he’s learned from mistakes, but maybe not

Exchange of “I’m your destiny” with Mr. Norton - does it imply that they are one another’s destiny?

Is it an optimistic ending?

Can Invisible Man use his invisibility for good?

When he emerges, I don’t think he will be as gullible - he’ll be more skeptical

Castration as acquiring knowledge - maybe ignorance was paradise

On the Brotherhood:

There are engines within engines - he finally sees that the Brotherhood doesn’t care about Harlem

Rinehart was running a scam - but everybody: Bledsoe, Brotherhood, they are running scams too

The Brotherhood pretended that it didn’t see color, gender - but you have to honor differences - a melting pot versus a salad bowl

Jack and the glass eye - a symbol of blindness - red hair - Communism

Parallel with David Copperfield: IM started innocent, then became disillusioned

Other thoughts, images, questions:

Ras on the horse - biblical - 4 horsemen

Being underground is hibernation

The sickness was both outside and inside me

Ellison - as a younger writer he covered a Harlem riot in the 1940s

Position of literature in a chaotic American landscape - a lot of people are reading comics - where does the novel fit in?

P 441 - the nuns on the subway (underground) - one is all in black, other all in white (with bare black feet) - rhyme - your cross ain’t nearly so heavy as mine - a competition of suffering

passage above - he is beginning to see the way race makes all of us messed up

The thought in this book is post- Christian

The artist is a special person who might be able to help us in this world where God is gone

The reader experiences everything without always understanding what it means

You forget that this all takes place over a short period of time - in fact, he’s still very young, a kid really

I thought we would see more of the book’s earlier characters at the end - only Mr Norton, but IM is still invisible to Mr Norton

Rinehart - kind of like Superman, with glasses he’s Clark Kent

None of our group understands what happened to Tod Clifton - why was he transformed - did he go mad?

Odors and smells -the epilogue talks about bad air and good air - Was Ellison a sensitive person?

What about the violence -it’s building up, then he falls in the hole

Rinehart - a natural character for the times and context - a numbers runner was an important figure in that era

The novel reads like an action movie - very cinematic

Clifton’s doll doesn’t burn easily - does this have significance?  You can’t kill Clifton, or you can’t kill racism? It’s slow to change, slow to burn

Important line, p. 452: “Could politics ever be an expression of love?”

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