Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison
Contributed by Fernande Huls
Character Analysis
The Invisible Man

He is the narrator of this story. He is a black man who feels invisible because people don’t ever really look at him. His race precludes any deeper contact than a merely surface acknowledgment. People look at him and assume that all the stereotypes of being black apply to him and then they look no further.

Mr. Norton

Mr. Norton, an old white man and co-founder of the narrator’s college, is the catalyst for the narrator’s expulsion and betrayal by Bledsoe.

Dr. Bledsoe

Dr. Bledsoe is the dean of the narrator’s college, and he is the narrator’s idol because he is a black man successful in the realm of academia. Dr. Bledsoe tricks the narrator into believing that he’s going to New York with letters of recommendation for work, when he’s really carrying letters that demean him.

Brother Jack

Brother Jack is a local leader of the Communist party who recruits the narrator to be the speaker for and to Harlem.

Grandfather

The narrator’s grandfather died angry with himself for always submitting to white authority instead of standing up for himself. This idea haunts the narrator because he believes that to be successful, he has to gain the approval of white people. Because of this attitude, the narrator feels like a traitor.

Trueblood

Trueblood is a black man shunned by his own people but supported by the white people of the town after an accidental incestuous encounter with his daughter.

Mr. Emerson

Mr. Emerson is a trustee of the school in New York, and when the narrator goes to see him, he meets with Mr. Emerson’s son instead. Because this young man is sympathetic, he lets the narrator in on the bogus letters of recommendation.

Lucius Brockway

Brockway is a black man who works in the engine room at Liberty Paints. He is the narrator’s boss for a day until the narrator is in some sort of accident in the room where the paint base is made and is taken to the factory hospital.

Mary

Mary is a kind black woman who takes the narrator in and lets him rent a room from her until he joins the Communists and moves away.

Brother Hambro

Hambro is a well-educated Communist who trains the new speakers in Communist doctrine. The narrator trains with Hambro for several months before he is allowed to give public speeches again.

Brother Clifton

Clifton is an enthusiastic and charismatic young activist in the Harlem district, and the narrator is initially threatened by Clifton’s presence.

Ras the Exhorter

Ras is a Black Nationalist agitator who considers the black men of the Communist party traitors to their race because they are still acting as the white man’s puppets.

Rineheart

Rineheart is a con-artist who takes advantage of the people of Harlem in his roles as a bookie, a gambler, a lover, and a preacher. The narrator is mistaken for Rineheart when he disguises himself in dark glasses and a big hat.

Sybil

Sybil is the wife of a committee member of the Brotherhood, and the narrator sleeps with her in an attempt to get information that could help him destroy the Brotherhood. Sybil, however, has no useful information for him.

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