Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison
Contributed by Fernande Huls
Chapter 13

He feels restless after staying in the apartment so long, so he goes out into the New York winter. As he walks down the sidewalk, he sees a man selling baked yams. He buys one and thinks as he eats it how he used to pretend that he didn’t like yams, chitterlings, and other soul food because he thought liking that food made him seem ignorant and common. He’d learned from Dr. Bledsoe to push away the things that made him seem like a common black man whether he liked them or not, but after Dr. Bledsoe’s betrayal, the young man no longer feels the need to keep up the pretense.

He comes across a crowd gathered on the sidewalk in front of a building where an elderly, black couple is being evicted. He joins the disgruntled crowd of black people and fights his conflicting desire to fight to help these people or to just leave it alone. The crowd gets rowdy, and without realizing what he’s doing, he begins to speak to them to try to soothe the crowd before someone gets shot because the marshal is standing in the doorway with a loaded gun aimed at them. Though his speech slows them down momentarily, eventually they rush past him and attack the white man with the gun. As part of the crowd beats the white man, the rest of the people begin to carry the old couple’s possessions back into their apartment. In the middle of the camaraderie some white people who claim to be "the friends of all common people" Chapter 13, pg. 282 show up to help move the furniture until the police come. The young man is inside the building when the police arrive, and a young, white woman directs him to the roof to get away. Her help surprises him, but he takes her advice.

As he crosses the neighboring roofs of a block of buildings, the narrator sees a white man following him. Afraid that it’s a cop who knows about his role in the outburst at the eviction, the narrator moves faster. When he gets to the last building, he runs down the stairs and steps onto the street to blend in with the crowds. He’s standing at a crosswalk feeling sure that he lost the guy who was following him until the man beside him congratulates him on his speech. The narrator is even further startled when the man who followed him across the rooftops invites him to a cafe for coffee and cheesecake. Too curious to pass up the invitation, the narrator goes with the odd redheaded man who calls himself Brother Jack. As they sit in the cafe Brother Jack asks the narrator to join their Communist organization and act as a speaker to and for the black community. The narrator declines the offer, but Brother Jack gives him a card with his phone number just in case the young man changes his mind.

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