Study Help Essay Questions


1. What does invisibility mean in the context of this novel? Give examples of how the author depicts this invisibility within the story.

2. Beginning with slave narratives, the "running man" is a key theme in black folklore and literature. How does Ellison incorporate this theme into Invisible Man? (Consider: Why is the narrator running? What starts him running? What keeps him running? What is he running from? What is he running toward?)

3. Analyze the novel's three-part structure. How does it represent the narrator's movement from "purpose to passion to perception"?

4. Analyze Ellison's use of humor, satire, or irony.

5. Throughout the novel, Ellison plays on our tendency to define ourselves (and others) in terms of external elements such as physical characteristics and material possessions. For example, Brother Jack's glass eye symbolizes his limited vision; the narrator's calfskin briefcase symbolizes his emotional and psychological baggage. With this in mind, briefly describe the relationships between the following characters and the items or elements associated with them:

a. Brother Tarp's leg chain and portrait of Frederick Douglass

b. Mary Rambo's cast-iron bank

c. Lucius Brockway's false teeth

d. Reverend Barbee's white handkerchief

e. The narrator's new suit