Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison
Contributed by Fernande Huls
Chapter 2

When the invisible man goes to college, he works as a chauffeur for the prestigious guests of the school. His trouble begins the day that he drives Mr. Norton, a wealthy, old white man who is a co-founder of the college. As he drives Mr. Norton, the old man asks the boy about his plans for the future and explains that his own future is wrapped up in the lives of all the black students at the college because he helped found the school. He says that he "had a feeling that your people were somehow connected with my destiny. That what happened to you was connected with what would happen to me . . ." Chapter 2, pg. 41

The old man wants to see the country around the school, some place that he’s never seen before, so the narrator takes him driving down a road that goes past an old slave cabin where Trueblood lives. Trueblood is a black man now shunned by his community because he impregnated his own daughter. Mr. Norton, unaware of the situation, wants to stop at the cabin and talk to the people outside, but the narrator is uncomfortable. When the old man insists, the narrator can do nothing but comply, and so he sits with Norton and Trueblood on the porch as Trueblood explains to Norton that he didn’t mean to have sex with his daughter. He, his wife, and his daughter shared a bed while the other children slept on the floor. In the middle of the night, Trueblood was dreaming about sex and woke to realize that he was having intercourse with his daughter, but at that point, the two of them were too carried away to realize the seriousness of the situation or to stop themselves. When Trueblood’s wife woke up and saw what had happened, she bashed the side of his head and got an axe to finish him off. But she couldn’t kill him for his sin against their daughter. Instead she and all the other black people of their community shun him. He still lives in their cabin, but his wife won’t speak to him and neither will his daughter who is pregnant with his child. As Trueblood tells the story to Mr. Norton who listens in fascination, the narrator is embarrassed because he feels that Trueblood and people like him reduce the accomplishments of black people everywhere. He makes the entire race look bad in front of white people. The ironic thing that Trueblood points out is that before this disaster, the white people ignored him, but now that the black people have turned their back on him for his outrageous wrong, white people give him money and help him out.

Mr. Norton seems shocked and upset by the story, so the narrator encourages him to leave. Before they go, however, Mr. Norton gives Trueblood one hundred dollars. The narrator is shocked and outraged that someone so low-down would get that much money from a white man when he does everything right and is never rewarded so highly. Mr. Norton seems ill and says he needs whiskey, so the narrator takes him to the nearest place he can think of where whiskey is available, the Golden Day.

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