4-Part Analysis of Invisible Man (Part 3)

[Synthesis with “Caged Bird” by Mary Angelou]

I thought this poem was very representative of the IM’s internal dissonance in what he’s doing and in what he’s feeling. This something that we see throughout the book but in these hundred pages, we also see him assume another identity; one of a public speaker for the Brotherhood. When he makes the speech for the old lady who was getting kicked out, he got his first taste of power. Before, when he makes speeches, he was ignored and talked over. This time, he had the power over the crowd and managed to make the authorities lose ground. After he joins the Brotherhood, he is indoctrinated into the ideals of the Brotherhood and he’s taught to use the science-oriented rhetoric they use. However, with his newfound ability, he also has restrictions on him that he’s never had before. This is can be seen in how although the IM is “allowed” to sing, his wings are still clipped and his feet are still tied. They tell him that he has to make speeches the way the Brotherhood makes speeches (through an appeal to logos, not to pathos like he’s used to) and he was specifically told that he shouldn’t “underestimate the discipline [of the Brotherhood]” meaning that although he’s been given an elevated position, he is still tied to the Brotherhood and has to listen to what the group decides. This will come up later during the trial, which we will not talk about just yet.

Like a caged bird who sings fearfully, the atmosphere of uncertainty that surrounds his position in the Brotherhood and as he became more involved in the Brotherhood, a feeling that something bad is going to happen grows. The first big cue for this was in the scene where the IM was taken to El Toro in the middle of the night. There are several things that gave off a bad vibe. First is the calendar that he notices. The date is April 1st, April Fool’s Day. So, whatever is coming up isn’t going to be good for the IM as he’s been playing the fool the entire book. We know enough of Brother Jack’s character now to know that he’s in the Brotherhood more for power than for change as he treats the IM as a means to an end and not as an individual. The other smaller detail is in the name of the place, El Toro, or the bull in Spanish. So, effectively, the IM is getting bull and being played for a fool.

[The IM treated as a means in The Brotherhood]

The Washington Post on how the fate of the Dreamers was used as leverage for the 2018 funding bill (link):

AFTER ALL of President Trump’s bluster about his “great love” for “dreamers,” brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, it turns out he’s content to use them as leverage in a high-stakes game of political horse-trading. Mr. Trump seems willing to strip them of jobs, security and homes unless Democrats buckle on a range of Republican immigration priorities, including an even longer-standing object of the president’s ardor: a beautiful border wall.

In September, it was Mr. Trump who terminated the Obama-era protection for dreamers that shielded them from deportation while granting them work permits if they had clean records and met certain other requirements. At the time, he gave Congress six months to fashion a legislative fix; failing that, the president suggested he would act unilaterally to ensure their protection.

It soon became apparent that Mr. Trump’s passion for his base, whose anti-immigrant fervor he stoked in the course of the 2016 campaign, exceeded his feelings for the dreamers. Prodded by White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a nativist hard-liner, Mr. Trump has made clear that his price for helping the dreamers is steep — not just the wall and additional funding for border security but also an overhaul of the immigration system to end family-based migration and the visa lottery, whose beneficiaries are mainly from developing nations.

That agenda is anathema to Democrats and would harm the country. It’s worth debating the merits of expanding visa quotas to allow more high-skilled and highly educated immigrants, but that’s not what the White House is pressing for. Rather, Mr. Trump is more interested in tearing down programs than building new ones. And, as he made clear, he now regards dreamers as a means to that end. Democrats, he said in a tweet last week, are on notice that dreamers are out of luck “without the desperately needed WALL” and “an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration.” But the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program cannot and should not be the mechanism by which the United States’ immigration system is refurbished.

The clock is ticking for Congress. The grace period extended by Mr. Trump to dreamers expires in early March but, as three former homeland security secretaries told Congress on Wednesday, the real deadline is mid-January. Unless a bill is passed and signed by then, there will be insufficient time to establish a system by which dreamers can apply and be vetted for whatever new status is available. Without such a system in place by March 5, dreamers will lose not only protection from deportation but also their work permits — a disaster for them and a blow to the businesses that employ them.

Many Americans may regard congressional dysfunction as a given. That doesn’t mean they will easily forgive a failure to protect dreamers, which would expose so many blameless young people to calamity with so little justification.

This article was written earlier this year when there was major concern over whether Congress would be able to pass a spending bill for the new year especially when the new bill would be cutting a lot of programs and be funnelling the money towards things like the potential wall at the Mexican border. In this case, the Dreamers were held as bargaining chips to get the Democrats to agree to the other “terms and conditions” that the Republicans put in the bill. Effectively, what happened was that a small nation of citizens was left as human collateral in a political game in which they had no say.

This, in a lot of ways, is what’s also happening in the Invisible Man. There are multiple characters who seek to capitalise off of the situation as it is with the black race and the white race. Even Brother Jack, the leader of the interracial Brotherhood, is in it only for the power. His view is very similar to what America’s Founding Fathers thought of democracy — they didn’t like it, stating that “The United States is not a democracy, never was, and never was intended to be.” Brother Jack thought the average man didn’t know what was best for him and that they needed some superior mind to guide them, much like how the Founding Fathers characterised democracy as “mob rule” and for a big chunk of American history, voting rights were only restricted to those who owned a significant amount of land and had to meet certain incomes (some would argue that this is also how politics are run nowadays but I digress).

In this case, the IM was used as a tool to gain support with Harlem and with his talk with Brother Hambro, the IM realises that they never really cared about Harlem anyway. Once Harlem was perceived as not beneficial to their quest of power(“weak”), they abandoned it. The IM then realises that to the Brotherhood, his race wasn’t what made him invisible, it was his “functionality”. They saw him as a tool and when they didn’t have a use for him anymore, they just threw him away along with Harlem. The mysterious letter he received is evidence of that (one of Ellison’s foreshadowing devices), warning him that while his work is to support the black community, his real allegiance should be to the Brotherhood and that if he tries to “go too fast”, they will oust him. It is like Trump having Omarosa and Ben Carson by him, both of whom, mind, the black community do not think represents their race and using that to say that he’s not racist. It’s like a misogynist saying he likes at least one woman and using that to justify that he’s not misogynist. So, as an educated black man, the IM is being used as a connection to the people the Brotherhood is trying to gain power from. He’s just a superficial puppet that smiles and stands behind the leader that uses him to gain something from his people and the IM was an unsuspecting host. Of course, Omarosa and Ben Carson was never the spokesperson that the IM was but that’s besides the point.

If the Dreamers weren’t such an essential point to getting the Democrats to sign the new funding bill, then they would have been thrown aside in a heartbeat in a similar fashion.

[On the mysterious letter that the IM recieves]

“Brother, This is advice from a friend who has been watching you closely. Do not go too fast. Keep working for the people but remember that you are one of us and do not forget if you get too big they will cut you down. You are from the South and you know that this is a white man’s world. So take a friendly advice and go easy so that you can keep on helping the colored people. They do not want you to go too fast and will cut you down if you do.”

The first layer of meaning that I thought of when I first read this was, “Wow, what an obvious threat.” The words “cut you down” was written twice, that’s how serious it is. Yikes. This was the first clue that the Brotherhood wasn’t working towards the progression of the black race because, in this letter, the progression of the black race was merely a front; the real focus of its members should be in expanding the influence of the Brotherhood. The diction of this letter, the two appearances of the word friend, is kind of sinister. It reminds me of mafia interrogation where the inquisitor is implying castration or torture by fingernail removal all the while insisting that they’re here to help and that they can be trusted.

Besides the blatant paradox between the Brotherhood’s supposed goal and the obedience this letter is demanding, the phrase “you can keep on helping the colored people” as if they themselves weren’t colored leads me to believe that whoever wrote this was someone who would feel threatened if the IM got too popular and that they weren’t black. Of course, the obvious suspect would be Brother Jack; he has the most to lose if the IM does keep on going fast.

Another layer of meaning lies in what it’s saying about real life social movements. One side effect of social movements like the rise of black civil rights sentiments in the 50s and onto the 60s is that people see opportunities to gather an audience and through their audience, gain power and influence. Riding the wave, so to speak. This can be clearly seen when Ras accused the black Brotherhood members of being sellouts. They were seen as partnering with a group of white people who were simply using the black members to pull the wool over the populace’s eyes with a false ideology. Again, this is the question of whether people can actually affect change. People like Bledsoe only believes in power within the system. He would also be labelled a sellout. These are people who are, on the surface, protesting against the establishment while taking advantage of it as well which is why intersectionality is such a big deal when looking at issues like sexual harassment or racism because, in the end, different groups experience different forms of the same thing and have more or fewer options based on gender or race or income etc etc. For example, when women got the vote in the form of the 19th Amendment, those rights were reserved for white women. Black women still struggled under Jim Crow for decades to come. We see here advantaged people fighting against the thing they’re advantaged by while simultaneously also benefiting from their advantage. The most obvious current example of this would be in the increasingly popular beauty trends based off of black culture, in other words, cultural appropriation aka taking the culture’s characteristics while at the same time believing the culture is bad. On Kylie Jenner, big lips and cornrows are attractive and a ground-breaking fashion trend. On a black woman, it means she’s not as accepted because she doesn’t adhere to the beauty standard set by white women. Social movements are complex and contain many personalities, many of whom are actually sabotaging the group’s efforts. It is no different in today’s environment as it was in Ellison’s era.

Discussion Questions

  1. How have the words of the IM’s grandfather changed in meaning in this section of the book?
    1. At the beginning of the book, the grandfather’s words could be seen as a dying confession of the guilt he’s harboring over betraying the dignity and identity of his people. The IM didn’t understand why his grandfather said that and he didn’t until this section of the book when he sees really how the system, though professing its support for the black people, is really corrupt in its own greed. In Bledsoe, he was disillusioned about his mentor’s character. In Brockway, the old man clearly had a few screws loose. However, in the Brotherhood, there were no excuses that the IM could find to justify what happened. He’s followed the system even now, listening to a white man and accepting a name given to him by a white man. There is something strange about a white man appointing a black man to be a spokesperson for the black people. Isn’t the whole point to having the black people’s voices be heard so shouldn’t the black community decide who their spokesperson is? Before, the grandfather’s words had a message of rebellion, warning the IM from the system and the IM feels uneasy about it since he’s been taught to follow “the straight road”. Now, it is one of bittersweetness, of not realising soon enough or not having the strength to buck the system. It says something about the tone of the rest of the book where marginalised groups had to learn, either through their parents or through experience (the hard way) that there really is no place for them, inside or outside the system. That people are born in a skin or an identity that can be perceived as inherently wrong and inferior and not being able to get out of it. The IM had to grow into the realisation and it’s painful and ultimately, he breaks down and gets out of the system, believing a non-existence is better than conformity and degradation.


  1. What is the meaning of the Sambo doll?
    1. The Sambo doll in the scene was another one of the shock factors in Ellison’s book. It is a grotesque caricature of a black man. The IM notices that the doll is controlled by an almost invisible string. This symbolises the hold that society has on them in various forms of oppression and microaggressions that they often cannot grasp or articulate. The words that are used to sell this doll also suggests a degree of dehumanisation, a circus act, if you will. A toy. What I think Ellison is trying to get at here is Brother Clifton’s breaking point and it kind of predicts what will happen in the 60s. It reminds me of McMurphy’s plight in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Basically, both characters are pushed past their breaking point but they’re forced to live on in this institution called society. In McMurphy’s case, his death liberated the rest of the patients in the ward. With Clifton, there was no savior moment. All that signified his death was the pool of blood after he was shot. This was a man that became too self-aware and so he was punished. There are no saviors in this world. Really, the Sambo doll and what it represented and what happened to Clifton was the despair event horizon for the IM. I think that this was a bigger turning point in the book than anything else before it because it physically showed what the IM was experiencing over the last dozen and a half chapters and he was forced to come to terms with it and with that, came the same realisation that Clifton had (although the IM did take his sweet time about it even after witnessing Clifton’s death).


  1. Was Ras’s approach better or the Brotherhood’s?
    1. For this question, I want to talk about the historical context. The setting is the Civil War era. Lincoln was forced to make the Civil War about slavery (the details of which I won’t go into but Lincoln was definitely not the progressive guy everyone thinks he is). Since the slavery issue was forced, Lincoln had to decide what to do with the black people he emancipated. Some wanted them to be moved to Liberia. A minority thought that they should carry through and integrate black people into white society. Many others had opinions in between and a lot of them thought that the emancipation was a bad idea. So, those that wanted the freedmen to be moved Liberia would be Ras’s ideology and those who wanted integration would be the Brotherhood (if the Brotherhood wasn’t corrupt). Historically, integration won out and that’s what started to happen albeit at a painfully slow pace. The project to make Liberia a haven for freedmen ultimately failed so although I can’t say either approach was better because, to be honest, neither have the right attitudes, I would say that integration historically has worked out better.

4-Part Analysis of Invisible Man (Part 2)

[Synthesis with Rudyard Kipling’s “If“]

I thought that this poem really fit with what’s going on in the story. It is also kind of ironic to apply this poem to Invisible Man when Rudyard Kipling is someone who also wrote “The White Man’s Burden” but that’s a topic for another time. Here, the poem is detailing the various milestones to becoming an adult. Furthermore, the poem talks about dealing with problems being treated unfairly. It talks about being the bigger person. Here, we can measure the growth of the IM’s character. In these hundred pages, we see the IM really grow. We see him dealing with Bledsoe’s betrayal, we see him accepting his race, we see him realising a new power and we see him starting to let go of his old mindsets. After he was disillusioned as to the contents of Bledsoe’s “recommendations”, the IM was understandably angry. He wants revenge and actually plans on murdering Bledsoe. The IM’s straightforward nature by this predictable reaction would soon change as we see him grow more cynical in the following pages. In previous scenes in the book, the IM was really self-conscious about how his race is perceived (like how the IM got offended at the drugstore because they recommended him a Southern breakfast) and tries to separate himself from the rest of his race’s “dirt”, but we see him starting to not feel ashamed about his race anymore in the scene where he buys the yams despite the stereotype. We also see him starting to have doubts. In the scene with the black man with the heap of blueprints, the black man symbolises a collection of unrealised plans and latent future action. The IM doesn’t like this because he believes that once conceived, an ambition/dream should be carried out. This continues in the scene where the IM meets with Emerson’s son and he tries to get the IM to let go of his attachment to the college. The IM defends his ambition before being shown the true contents of the recommendation letters. That night, he questions his identity for the first time while trying to sleep. This marks the turning point in the IM’s characterisation.

Using his anger at his betrayal at the hands of Dr. Bledsoe, the IM then redirects his energy into earning money in order to survive in the short-term. He goes to work at the paint store and here, his preconception of a more egalitarian North is also undermined. I talked about Mr. Norton a lot last week and his more subtle brand of racism and we can see it here at Liberty Paints where they literally boast about the white paint’s ability to cover up black. When the IM was told to mix the paint, he notices that one of the ingredients used to make the paint was a darker chemical. This ties into the invisibility theme where the black man is only seen through the white man and how America was built on the backs of its slaves but the credit and power remain in the hands of the white men. This is further amplified by Mr. Kimbro telling the IM not to think and to just follow directions, treating him like a machine. Then, when the IM was sent to the basement, he meets Brockway, who seems to embody everything that the IM was before, happy in a position that is clearly degrading to his value as a human being(paying him very little although he is experienced) and his complicity with the whole broken system that’s taking advantage of his race (“white is right”). Then, later on, after the IM passes out after the accident, he wakes up from “treatment” and realises he didn’t know his name. He is on his way to becoming the character we see in the prologue. We see him slowly filling up the requirements listed in the poem…

[Liberty Paint]

“Our white is so white you can paint a chunka coal and you’d have to crack it open with a sledge hammer to prove it wasn’t white clear through.” (Ch. 10)

The first and most obvious meaning of this quote is in the attitude of some black people that are either resigned or have accepted the way they are treated. This quote was spoken by Brockway and he embodies the surrender of the fight to have true equality. Instead, like Dr. Bledsoe, he’s integrated himself into the system instead and fights to defend his situation even though he’s being undervalued and being paid way below what his experience in the company should gotten him. Not only is he content with his situation, he actively opposes any progress that could be had by labelling the unionists upstarts and being paranoid about being replaced.  He, like the Mr. Nortons of the world, holds the word ungrateful over the heads of black men so that he can keep his place in the world. In a way, Brockway is the more pitiable version of Dr. Bledsoe where at least Bledsoe knew what a rotten world it is and fights for the betterment of his own situation while Brockway is content to waste away in a job that goes nowhere and earns him no recognition. It is more ironic, then, that his name is Lucius (meaning light). It might signify his desire to be white or at least to blend into white like the paint that he helps make or it might be that he has lost his dignity and identity and tried to cover himself in the same blinding white that he makes in paint and allying himself with the factory owners against the rest of the workers. This reminds me of a lot of the older generations within the populations that are trying to affect change but they tell the youngsters to follow the grain to “stay out of trouble” and “be humble” etc because they’ve lived out most of their life already and they don’t want any trouble in their established routines. For example, the reason why there was a lot of teenagers involved in the protests during the Civil Rights Movement was because the older generations couldn’t risk their livelihoods to protest and many wanted to maintain status quo and slowly work for change while the teenagers had less of a risk of endangering the rest of their family if they participated in protest.

In Brockway’s character, there exists another instance of illusion where he believes that he has control over his white “masters” due to him being indispensable to the operations at the paint factory. Despite that, he is afraid of losing his job to the point that he becomes violent. This was the same case with Bledsoe where although he claims he has control over what the school’s trustees see and believe about said school, he felt so threatened that he sent the IM to New York on a goose chase.

The quote implies how the system benefits those who create and maintain it. Liberty Paints is just a metaphor for the different brand of racism in the North. The word liberty in the shop’s name is meant just for those that are favored by the system. Everyone else in America has no part of that same liberty. I’ve mentioned it before but this can be seen in how Mr. Kimbro treats his employees. To him, his employees are nothing more than entities to extract labor out of and he gives no acknowledgement of his employees’ thoughts or feelings. They even call him a slave driver if that wasn’t obvious enough. When the black “dope” ran out, the IM was tasked to refill it and when he refilled with paint remover instead, he was punished and had to redo all the paint he’s made so far. He wasn’t given adequate direction and was punished for his mistake. This is exactly what happens to those without the protection of the selective liberty. This can be seen in a lot of authority figures like Bledsoe where the IM, in his naivety, was sent to drive a trustee out and was punished when he committed a taboo that he didn’t know about. This selective liberty also extends to the labor union that the IM walks in on. Earlier, when he was being shown around, it was mentioned that black people were being brought in to oppose the labor union and I know that historically, a lot of labor unions excluded a lot of black people and women and this was a hint of racial tension between the union workers and the black workers brought in to potentially replace them. This resembles the ever-present pointing finger of Americans who think that some minority group were threatening their jobs and in the 1950s and 60s, since the influx of Asian immigrants had proven themselves to be “model minorities”, the finger that had originally been pointed at them turned back to the restless black population especially since the 1950s was during the Great Migration where there was a shift of the black population out of the South into Northern urban centers and with immigrants came prejudice from the majority population.

Another layer of meaning lies in the denial of the African American culture through individuals like the IM ( where the black coal is covered by the blindingly white paint). One of the character developments that the IM goes through is the acceptance of his race and all the good and the bad that is associated with his skin color. The IM tries to cover up his blackness the best he can in the beginning by speaking carefully and he feels embarrassed at his race’s examples of baseness and tries to separate himself from them as it can be seen in his internal dialogue during the Trueblood scene. When he comes to the North, he tries to hide his Southerness as well, taking offence when offered pork chops and grits. After the accident and his electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), he doesn’t feel as bothered by his Southern black identity anymore and indulges in some buttered yams (much like today’s fried chicken and watermelon stereotype, I assume). Only after a dissociative experience does he break free from the stigma of being black and is comfortable in his own skin. To achieve this, he had to acknowledge that the system wasn’t designed for someone like him in mind and he had to let go of his anger because, on a deeper level, he knew about this and he just decided not to acknowledge it.

[On the IM’s “treatment scene after the paint shop accident]

Since the IM went under electroconvulsive therapy for his accident with Brockway, he experienced a sort of dissociation with his former identity and I want to research into the history of the treatment. They did compare ECT to lobotomy in the book and some of the effects of lobotomy include loss of personality, instability with mood, a breakdown in reasoning abilities etc. On a side note, the IM mentions seeing a third eye on one of the doctor’s faces (which was a flashlight) but a third eye has the connotation of power and the ability to see truth and after the ECT, the IM gained a new perspective so the procedure could have been symbolism for a rebirth of the character in the light of truth.



On why ECT is under attack: By acting so directly on the body, without any delving into the life history of the patient, ECT’s powerful effects raise questions about what mental illness is, and what kind of psychiatry is best. It evens raises questions about who we are, and what a person is.


“There is no question that ECT was benefiting patients then, but there is also a lot of evidence from that period showing that ECT, and the threat of it, were used in mental hospitals to control difficult patients and to maintain order on wards.”

I found it coincidental in the mention of identity in the article and while the article does mention Kesey’s work in Cuckoo’s Nest, the IM wasn’t mentioned at all.

The article talks about the fact that while ECT is used to treat depression and other mental illnesses now, it was used on a wide range of patients before the physiological effects of ECT were truly understood. I know that ECT was used to “treat” homosexuals (obviously doesn’t work) and it is still being used today in places like conversion camps. Bad history with ECT where it was used unwillingly on patients and to control them like stated above (also in One Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and in the doctors’ brazen use of this treatment with only anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness meant that many patients who didn’t need the treatment were subjected to it and sometimes unwillingly as in the case of the IM where the “treatment” suggested ranged from ECT to castration all just to treat a hit to the head.

Basically, as a cure-all, ECT was used often without the administrator of the treatment knowing much about the patient or their condition and we see this in IM where the IM given the treatment although he had no mental illness and the doctors performed the treatment when he didn’t have his mental facilities about him and they didn’t ask for consent or inform him of what they were going to do to him. In fact, the doctors talked about his treatment right in front of him. This could be an extension of the theme of invisibility where what is best for them (a treatment for black people) is discussed right in front of them without their being able to contribute to a discussion involving their own fate. What’s more telling is the fact that afterwards, the IM had to sign a paper releasing the company from any responsibility of his injuries and was assured that he would receive a compensation check. So, the society that forced “treatments” upon a marginalised group can be absolved of any guilt or responsibility if the treatment happens to not work out. If it doesn’t, then it’s the colored population’s fault for not carrying through and not because the treatment may have been harmful and ineffective. This lack of understanding, in history and in modern times, have led to mass actions against and within the black population by authorities to solve some problem that the authorities clearly didn’t understand the causes of or didn’t want to understand and caused more trouble than good in those populations while also blaming the black population for ineffectual results (a very big example: the authorities’ actions against gun violence and drug usage in cities, often implementing policy that encouraged abuse to the people that they were supposedly trying to help, again, directed at minorities). Some of the treatments, like the stop-and-frisk policy implemented in cities like NYC, were used as threats against the minority population and was marketed as an effective way to deter crimes like what the second excerpt says except it was just as ineffective as deterring crime as ECT is at treating physical head trauma and unconstitutional to boot.

All in all, what this brief segment in the story shows us is the systemic misdiagnosis of a minority population in an effort to “solve its problems” without any input from the population in question, contributing to their sense of invisibility. While the treatment may have turned out okay for the IM (with only temporary memory loss), we can’t entirely attribute his “rebirth” to the ECT as he also suffered a blow to the head which may have also produced the same effect. So really, we don’t even know if the treatment worked and if it didn’t work out and the IM ended up with mental impairments or something, those who imposed the treatment couldn’t be held accountable for it anyway because of that paper he signed. This is especially prevalent today in the light of police brutality and the number of acquittals of the police officers guilty of shooting someone with little to no reason to. Overall, this scene is an extended metaphor for the external locus of control when it comes to having decisions made for the minority population and for the theme of invisibility.

Discussion Questions

1. How does the IM go through rebirth in chapter 11 and what does it signify?

When the boiler explodes, there was a lot of water imagery and he wakes up to a light in his face with his memory temporarily gone. At first, I thought he had drowned or drowning and hallucinating the doctor scene. Then, I realised that, in a way, he was able to throw off his current situation through this experience. With the water being symbolic for a baptism (How To Read Literature Like a Professor) and the doctor’s light being the beacon toward a new being (like the light that people supposedly see right before they die that calls them to heaven). This scene could be the transition between the IM trying to be seen and then him becoming the IM and beginning to really see what it’s like to be invisible.

2. Being a submissive black person was ideal for the white community and is an enabler for their further mistreatment of black people. Why does the IM keep acting submissive even though it’s detrimental for him to act this way?

I was thinking about the behavior of children and how some who are abused or treated badly by their caretakers but still defend them and cry when their caretakers get taken away. This is kind of what I imagine is happening here. The IM was raised to be obedient and be grateful for what they’re given and never question what the “gentlemen” higher up say or do. This occurs throughout the first part of the story in the mannerisms and beliefs of the IM in the various scenes where he admires Mr. Norton and how out-of-reach his existence seemed to be to someone of the IM’s station as a black scholarship student. The IM wants praise and recognition from what he believes is a higher form of living with the millionaires and the affluent white people he comes into contact with so he aspires to be like them, more “civilised” so what he’s trying to do by submitting under their rules. He wants to be like Dr. Bledsoe where he acts civilised and is able to speak to the trustees on a more equal term than what the IM had ever seen before from a black man. He sees that to achieve that, you have to bow and scrape and he uses that modelled behavior to try to also get the same recognition. The only problem, of course, is that his motives are too naive and he doesn’t understand that this behavior doesn’t gain him anything if he doesn’t have anything to offer to the millionaires like the Bledsoe does.


3. What do you think about the “wrong” that the IM committed? How does it actually threaten Dr. Bledsoe’s position?

I think the scene where Dr. Bledsoe revealed his true colors surprised most who read it because he was described as a stately, well-spoken man and the scene in his office was the first time we see him act anything but. Why was he so incensed? You would think that he was mad because the IM lost face for the school by showing Mr. Norton “the dumps”. He talks about how he had bow and scraped to have enough “fine lanes” to show the trustees so what the IM is doing isn’t humiliating the school, rather it is undermining Bledsoe’s facade that he’s trying to present to the trustees to keep them happy and think that they’re contributing to racial progress. So even in that respect, Bledsoe isn’t thinking about the good of the school or even about what he supposedly believes in (his mission to bring enlightenment to his race by educating the young men). In a way, Bledsoe is like a dystopian dictator that paints an ideal facade and the trustees are the sheep who are led along to continue fuelling this facade so that Bledsoe can continue his reign. He says as much in the book and he claims that he has the support of the trustees and therefore has power through them and that although the trustees have the appearance of power, he’s really the one that directs where their power goes so he’s the one in charge of the school. So, in conclusion, what the IM threatened wasn’t the image of the school or the reputation of Bledsoe, it was the threatening of Bledsoe’s ego by challenging the idealistic facade he built for the school, therefore, the unproportionate punishment by exile. Before considering this point, it didn’t make sense that his punishment would be so disproportionate to what he did wrong but if it’s a question of ego, then it makes more sense.

4-Part Analysis of Invisible Man (Part 1)

Originally written for my AP Lit class
IM stands for the main character, the titular Invisible Man
Each part of this series will cover material on approximately every 100 pages of the book, although there will be some overlap.

[Battle Royal scene]

The blacks in this society are treated as little more than circus monkeys, there to mock and as entertainment. What praise they get are for performance measured in standards humiliating their individuality and intelligence. It’s like how a raven is judged to be smart because it knows how to use a stick to get at a morsel of food. The IM is similarly being judged to be smart based on the presumption of his inherent stupidity and the reward he gets (the scholarship) is something that is not worth anything to the people he gets it from. When he performs a seemingly unlikely feat for his race (being intelligent and articulate), the so-called patrons of the advancement of black youth congratulate themselves, crediting themselves with the work he did. They were the ones responsible for pulling up his race’s dignity and intelligence because they were the ones that allowed him the opportunity of education. They see the rise of black people from a “lower” society as a sign of their own generosity, never thinking that the right to life, liberty and prosperity is truly unalienable to any man. The discrimination and microaggressions in IM is subtle and often hard to grasp because it’s layered in honeysweet words and actions. Everything is done in insinuations and the threat of ingratitude and a return to poverty hangs over the black people who are gifted this taste of a white man’s “superiority”. It is similar to a government cruelly taxing its citizens to the point of famine and then demanding gratitude when they decide to redistribute a little of the food stores. This way, there is no way for people to address this attitude because they would be seen as a troublemaker and ungrateful. The patrons speak of the black race through their own perspective which is why Mr. Norton was fascinated with both Trueblood and what happened at Golden Day because while he was going on about how his fate was tied to the success of the black students, his experiences with Trueblood and in Golden Day affirms his superiority over the very race he’s trying to “raise” and empowers him in this task by making him a saintly figure gracing these fallen people with his gifts when really, he and his kind are what took these people and crushed them under their well-shined shoes and then put themselves as false prophets bringing to the people something which should have been a natural right. A modern example can be seen in the label of ungrateful over social movements like TakeTheKnee and Black Lives Matter.

[Dr. Bledsoe’s Meeting with the IM]

“The only ones I even pretend to please are the big white folk, and even those I control more than they control me… These white folk have news… to get their ideas across. If they want to tell the world a lie, they can tell it so well that it becomes the truth; and if I tell them that you’re lying, they’ll tell the world even if you prove you’re telling the truth. Because it’s the kind of lie they want to hear… I’ve made my place in it and I’ll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am. I had to be strong and purposeful to get where I am. I had to wait and plan and lick around… Yes, I had to act the nigger!” (pg 142-3)

Here, we see a more vicious side of Dr. Bledsoe. We see that the IM is starting to get a taste of what it is outside of his idealistic world. We see that the mild-mannered Dr. Bledsoe is actually someone who is very pragmatic in his methods to gaining and keeping his power. He is willing to sacrifice one member of his race in order to maintain the status of the rest, especially of himself and his institution. He has no illusions about uplifting his race to an equal level to the whites that he pleases on the surface. He wants to keep what he has and is content to work his “power” from the shadows.

Like with every other social issue, the question of racial equality is something that many people have different opinions about. Some take the high road with peaceful protests and civil disobedience. Others don’t wait for change to happen, they respond with terrific passion and sometimes, it leads to physical confrontation. Still others believe in reforming the system from the inside. There is another type who, like Dr. Bledsoe, is someone who is jaded about how society works and doesn’t hold any ideals or illusions of changing the way things are and instead choose to focus on elevating themselves; the fate of similar others are a secondary priority and oftentimes neglected altogether. This brings the motif of power. All of these methods are to gain power. With Dr. Bledsoe’s two-faced act, he doesn’t pretend to really care about the rest of his race. It just happened that his position is the director of an all-black school. Everything he preaches is just something for the patrons to hear; he’d rather see the rest of race lynched if only he could retain his power. However, his method does seem to have worked out for him; it’s been noted that he was the only black man the IM has seen who is able to touch a white man and he does have a measure of immunity against the distaste and contempt the rest of the white folk seem to show so far in the story. Meanwhile, the similarly intelligent but blunt doctor from Golden Day can’t bring himself to scrape and bow and is instead institutionalised. So, the theme here seems to be that pragmatism about your cause in some cases can bring better results than facing a problem head-on which, when you think about it, is something that Booker T. Washington employed with his intent to slowly empower his people through education to become more like the white folk rather than to use blunt force to change legislation and people’s perceptions of black people. I also have a strong suspicion that the Founder is based on Washington; the book even mentions the ambiguity of the statue where the IM isn’t sure the veil is being lifted or brought down on the slave and this reflects the conflict between Washington and W.E.B Du Bois’s views on how to go about bettering the situation of the emancipated slaves with Du Bois believing that a more direct approach would yield better results. By mentioning this, Ellison is weighing in on the debate and it’s clear that he supports Du Bois’s philosophy.

This was the first time that a character acknowledges the invisibility forced onto black people. For all of Dr. Bledsoe’s faults, he is being honest here and this is the first major blow that the IM gets to dispel his illusions about the purpose of the white people. He learns from his most respected role model that lying to the white people is how you please them and that lying is the best way to accomplish anything if you’re a black person in this society. Lying is so integral to the position of members in this society that the white people would be more willing to believe lies even if they know otherwise. So the illusions in this story are present two-fold: in the narrator (aka the IM) and the white folk. People like the IM are what feeds the self-illusion of the white folk. The white folk self-deceived because it will be too much if they were to see how things really were (like with Trueblood) and see that their philanthropy was a sham and that the students they educate are just tolerated. The IM perpetuates this self-congratulatory cycle by showing the dull intelligence and obedience that they would expect out of a well-trained dog and they compare that to the violence and baseness they think is inherent to the black race and say that they’ve contributed to the empowerment of the race.

Applying psychodynamic concepts to IM (Mr. Norton, on hindsight, is super creepy)


Defense Mechanisms with Mr. Norton-

Sublimation – satisfying an otherwise unacceptable impulse in a socially acceptable way

Examples –

-racist beliefs (that black people are inferior)

– absolved with sublimation where he supports a black college by hiding behind a screen to philanthropy but holds the belief of the “white man’s burden”

–  delights in the ways the that the black people are inferior to justify his cause

– “rewards” Trueblood by giving him a lot of money after he was told the story about incest with his daughter. He definitely enjoyed the story and walked away feeling superior to this moral-less man. By giving him money, he also absolves himself of the guilt of his social conscience by feeling this way

– his actions are definitely not fuelled by his daughter’s death. Rather, it seems like Mr. Norton personally related to Trueblood’s story especially with how he had previously described his own daughter’s perfections. So, it may be a way to defend himself against his own thoughts about his late daughter. Human psychology is hard to understand and is oftentimes disturbing.

Repression – preventing disturbing or anxiety-causing thoughts from rising to consciousness

Example –

-what I mentioned about Mr. Norton towards his daughter (the money could also be used as a distraction from his thoughts)

Displacement – satisfying an unacceptable impulse to a substitute and

Projections – attributing unacceptable thoughts or impulses to another person

Example –

– battle royal

– displacement – any anger from other sources (argument with wife, feeling inadequate, feeling that they’re treated unfairly at work etc.) is directed towards the blacks instead and they get to yell obscenities and threaten physical violence, letting them vent their anger and frustration onto people that can’t defend themselves (aka kicking the dog or beating your wife).

-projections – (once again, Mr. Norton’s fascination with his daughter) The violence and hatred that the patrons of the “fight club” feel is exemplified in the blindfolded participants of the battle royal and they get to avoid responsibility for their own feelings because they can then attribute these feelings to a people that they feel is safely separated from them

In reality, the Mr. Nortons of society is more poisonous to social progress than the overt racists we see in the battle royal scene. Both promote the worst parts of the black race and reward them but the covert racists like Mr. Norton are able to do so with a smiling front and are harder to confront because their methods of undermining the people’s dignity and status are more subtle and casts doubt on people’s suspicions.

Discussion Questions

  1. What fears does this text generate?

The fear of not being seen, the fear of being powerless and the fear of not knowing what’s going on. One of the running themes in the book is in how people see what they want to see of you and not what you really are. Your existence depends on other’s validations of you so if you’re denied of that, especially when it’s a core trait of yourself, you lose your sense of self and you feel invisible. The book demonstrates this right out of the gate with the IM, after being humiliated in the battle royal, was to give a speech and while he was speaking, the men he was supposed to be giving the speech to ignored him. Then, there’s Mr. Norton in the car scene where instead of asking what aspirations the IM has for the future, he instead talks about his own vision and his daughter and in asking the Invisible Man to confirm his fate, he is showing that his philanthropy is just for the statistic of how many people he helped and how many careers he helped make. These people to Mr. Norton are merely numbers, a trophy to add to his wall of accomplishments. So when he asked to know his fate, what he’s asking isn’t in what happens to the people he helps but in what he can use to as evidence of his own goodwill.

With power also comes with influence over reality. Dr. Bledsoe talks about how the white people can make others believe whatever they want through media and that he can make the white people think what he wants them to think and see what he wants them to see (which is why he is threatened when the IM brings Mr. Norton to the old slave quarters). This brings up the second fear of being powerless. The IM is told explicitly that he has no power because his opinion can be overridden and he can be easily discredited.

Then, there’s the big reveal of Dr. Bledsoe’s true self and how the IM doesn’t know what’s true and what’s false because reality seemed so contradictory to his idealistic worldview and he has trouble reconciling the two. This is the fear of not knowing what’s going on. The IM has always carried around a sense of unease about his lack of knowledge about the world ever since his grandfather’s dying words implicated that things aren’t always the way they seem. Together, these fears are what contribute to many of the plot points and revelations in the book and through these fears, Ellison is then able to articulate the more subtle aspects of racism that is otherwise hard to grasp and empathise with especially for those who have never experienced it before.


  1. How is the IM able to maintain his identity if there’s no one to confirm his existence?

Since we’ve established that a person’s identity is through the perceptions of others around him, the IM is a paradox where, in the present time, he isn’t acknowledged by anyone but he still retains a strong presence in his environment. The way he seems to confirm himself is through light. Light is the source of our primary sense: sight. Through light, his solid physicality can be confirmed in the form of a shadow. In a sense, this could be a physical manifestation of cogito ergo sum where it’s instead I see therefore I am. He also triumphantly declares his existence through his thousand-plus light bulbs. He is able to exert influence on the outside world even though he’s invisible by leaching energy from the electricity company and racking up electricity bills. This is the biggest confirmation of his existence. Although they know the electricity is being used up, they couldn’t figure out that it was him and so, ironically, in being invisible, his presence is louder than when he was trying to be visible. In becoming invisible, he can live outside the laws and basically squats in an unused living space right underneath the people who refused to acknowledge his existence and syphon free electricity.


  1. In the story, being invisible is a sign of discrimination, however, what are some advantages to being invisible?

Under the cover of invisibility, the IM can punch someone out and have them be clueless as to who the culprit is. With this anonymity, the IM is able to move around and do more without anyone knowing. This reminds me of masks and other face-coverings associated with protests and activism. The massive anonymity in those protests has the powerful effect of protecting the members and making them more menacing since you don’t know who they are. If you take activist groups like Anonymous where the members wear Guy Fawkes masks, the effect of thousands of masks becomes eerie since the masks also suppress any signs of humanity the wearer shows by blocking the entire face and our ability to read intention and emotion in facial expressions. In wearing the same mask, the wearers can also assume a collective identity instead of being individuals.

In this case, the collective anonymity of a race can also be advantageous to its members where it’s hard to pick out an individual among a sea of faces and where because people take less notice of what you do individually, you’re able to slip under the radar as the IM did. This was the purpose of the slave codes pre-1860s and many of the laws in the slave codes were to prevent slaves from communicating so that they couldn’t plan revolts. Those codes were in part fuelled by the need for control and also by the constant fear of the slaves’ masters because, in many places, the numbers of slaves significantly outnumbered their masters. So, in numbers come strength and if the whole of the race were to stand together, then their invisible status would make them a formidable threat both physically and psychologically since the segregation of white and black also meant that to the white folk, the black people’s culture would be alien to them and the lack of knowledge would breed fear. It’s scary to think of the Mr. Nortons that existed and still exist, working a persistent poison among the people. The same powers that work in the IM are at work today and in a lot more ways than just towards someone’s race.

On the other hand, this invisible status means that people are more likely to generalise about the entire race so the attributes of one person or a group within the race are generalised to the rest of the population. This results in persistent stereotyping and subsequent bad treatment to all members of the race.

APCS Chapter 6: 2D Arrays and ArrayLists

Alright, it’s time to tackle 2D arrays and arrayLists. 2D arrays are basically arrays of arrays. First off, 2D arrays:

2D Arrays

To start off with, the declaration and instantiation. Since 2D arrays are objects, we will use the new operator. There are several ways to do this:

The “normal” way:

data type [] [] name = new data type [# of rows] [# of collumns];

Example: I want to create a 2D array called nums containing int data with 2 rows and 3 collumns:

int[] [] nums = new int[2][3];

If you want to create a jagged array where each row is of a different length, then you can input your values directly into the 2D array. There are several ways to do this but I’m going to show you guys the simplest one:

int[] [] nums =


{4, 5, 6, 4},

{7, 234, 34, 1},

{23, 57, 2}


(Of course, you can write this all on one line but this layout looks more intuitive.)

So, this is what the 2D array would look like visually:


If this were a rectangular 2D array and not a jagged array, any attempt to retrieve a data value from the index position (3, 2) would return null so keep that in mind if you are manipulating or accessing a 2D array. There is also a thing called sparseArrays and an FRQ concerning sparseArrays has popped up on the AP exams (although I don’t think it’s likely to pop up again but hey, the more you know…) so here’s a link that kind of explains it but I don’t really think you need to know it for this class because it’s a little more high-level.

Traversing Through a 2D Array

With 2D arrays, you also need to know how to traverse through them. You can do this through the basic three types of loops. I’m going to show an example of each.

For Loops

You can use both the for loop and a for each loop. In my examples, I’m going to use the loops to add up all the numbers in the 2D array. I’m going to use the nums array that I instantiated above (all of the loops work with regular 2D arrays as well as jagged 2D arrays). This is how to use a regular nested for loop to go through every element in a 2D array and add them up.

int sum = 0;

for (int row = 0; row < nums.length; row++)

for (int col = 0; col < nums[row].length; col++)

sum += nums[row][col];

For Each Loop

For each loops are a little less intuitive to use but in the first part of the parameters denote which type of data type you’re trying to handle within the array and the second part is the array that you want to traverse through.

int sum = 0;

for (int[] num : nums)  //this looks at each row of thes 2D array

for (int i : num)  //this looks at all the data values within each row

sum+= num;

Both of these loops do the same thing.

While Loops

As a rule of thumb, while loops are used when you don’t know how many times iterations you need the loop to go through. I’m just going to use the basic example I used above and write a while loop instead.

int row = 0, col = 0, sum = 0;

while (row < nums.length) {

while (col < nums[row].length) {

sum += nums[row][col];

col++; }

row++; }


AP Com Sci Chapter 2 Lab Review

Heya! This will be the first of the AP Com Sci lab solutions on Outlet. I will be uploading these labs starting from Chapter 2 because Chapter 1 is a no-brainer. For that matter, Chapter 2 is a no-brainer too. I will upload parts of the code because even though these posts are supposed to contain the “answers”,  you’re still going to have to know how to write these programs and know the concepts behind the programs to pass this class. I will not contribute to your failure. If you have any questions, you can comment them below or shoot me an email on the contact page.

For Chapter 2, I will only post about three labs, the Base Conversion Lab (pg 2-4), the Circle Labs (of which I’ll cover the Circle2 part on pg 5-7) and the String Manipulation Lab (pg 8-10) since the rest are the most fundamental basics and don’t have much to cover.

Let’s get right into it.

Unit IV: Antebellum America (1800s up to the Civil War)

Trail of Tears by Robert Lindneux (1942)

This unit’s essay prep is incomplete because at the time, there was other things going on and my partner and I didn’t have the time to fully expand on all the points, so I’ll only include the prompts that were completed.

(1) The Jacksonian Period (1824-1848) has been celebrated as the era of the “common man”. To what extent did the period live up to its characterization? Consider TWO of the following in your response.

Economic development   Politics   Reform movements

Synthesis: There’s a lot you can use here, but the 19th Amendment and the Civil Rights movement would be prime examples.

Contextualization: “Corrupt Bargain” of 1824



  • Voting power
    • westward expansion added new states (Alabama, Ohio…)
      • these states lowered voting requirements in hopes of more voters and influencing national politics (other states have begun the process)
      • People were more free to form political parties like the Anti-Masonic and the “nativist” American Party
  • however, the common men also supported Jackson’s policies (veto National Bank’s charter, pet banks, Specie Circular Act) against the Bank
  • Nominating conventions became a thing
  • expanded the use of the spoils/ patronage system
  • to appeal to the masses, the campaign was invented and provided the foundation for what would become reality TV
  • the people’s newfound political clout was instrumental in the disagreement over the Tariff of 1828 by diverting power away from New England and forcing the Compromise of 1833 (Calhoun from SC)


  • A whole bunch of reforms. Get ready:
    • industrialisation and revivalism encourage reforms to alcohol consumption, prison reform, the creation of mental asylums (and Silent Hill), abolition (The Liberator Garrison), women’s suffrage (Susan Anthony, Seneca Falls etc), and an education requirement for children
  • the rise of utopian societies: Noye’s Oneida, Ripley’s Brook Farm and Owen’s New Harmony
  • immigrants found their situation to be slightly better (education and voting-wise)
  • more consideration for a wider amount of people
  • Native Americans were excluded from this reform fest as evidenced by the boot in their buttocks

(2) Compare and contrast the impact of the market revolution (1815–1860) on the economies of TWO of the following regions.

The Northeast The Midwest The South

For this one, I said that the market revolution wasn’t nearly as impactful on Southern economy than it was for Northern economy, so just keep that in mind for your thesis.

Synthesis: The industrial and economic boom post-Civil War

Contextualization: The influx of immigrants (especially the Irish during the mid-1840s due to the potato famine)


  • Urbanisation & Industrialisation (North)
    • massive concentration of workforce and production centres (aka factories)
    • Whitney’s interchangeable parts means viability of factories
    • Lowell Girls (Massachusetts) as example of change, new economic opportunities, more participation from a wider demographic
    • but but BUT! crowdsource manufacturing was still prevalent even in the face of industrialisation (more officially known as the “putting-out” system)
  • Specialization
    • North (textile mill), South (cotton)
    • internal trade
    • independent US economy
    • but too much specialisation wouldn’t be good (a big reason why South lost Civil War)
  • Federal Involvement
    • Clay’s American System-railroads and canals affected both (though significantly more in the North, actually South didn’t have much of that at all)
  • South
    • cotton gin and British demand for cotton jumpstarted South economy
    • strong exports in cotton->favourable balance of trade (very)
    • intense focus on cotton=slaves and reinforcement of institution (over 9000!)
    • relied increasingly on Northern and English products because of overspecialization
  • RESULT: ¡¡¡WORLD-CLASS ECONOMY!!!! (almost) 

(3) Explain how the Second Great Awakening in the north influenced TWO of the following movements.

Abolitionism    Utopian Communities  Temperance  The cult of domesticity

This one is short and a bit rushed. The points listed aren’t very organised so you’ll have to do that yourself.

Synthesis: First Great Awakening, obviously

Contextualization: the fact that the Second Great Awakening was encouraged by residual Revolutionary sentiments (namely, freedom in all aspects of like and dislike of authority)


  • Charles G. Finney was one of the most effective preachers
    • preached against Calvinism in “burned-over districts” in New York (Erie Canal attracted poor workers)
    • the slave-holding aristocracy ignored the Great Awakening teachings/beliefs
  • Utopian Communities: New Harmony (Robert Owen), Oneida (Joseph Humphrey Nodes), and Brook Farm (George Ripley)
  • Reforms and Perfectionism( achieving sinless perfection)
  • No predestination- salvation available to everyone
    • slavery is not right because everyone is equal in God’s eyes –  equality for all

(4) Compare the experiences of two of the following groups of immigrants during the period 1830-1860.

Irish     German    English  

Synthesis: Discrimination against the Chinese in the later half of the 1800s that resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Contextualization: Whichever immigrant group you didn’t use could be used as contextualization which in this case, would be the English. They moved mostly for the opportunity and to escape poverty



  • Germany was a diverse group- so they included Catholics, Protestants, and Jews
  • The Germans bound together in neighbourhoods ( very self-sufficient). The Germans were clannish
  • Americans disliked their economic success and their clannish ways
  • They usually left the ports on ships heading towards the cotton trade in New Orleans.
  • Germans immigrated to flee the economic hardship
    • crop failure, lack of land, and overpopulation in Germany
    • a lot were farmers and land was cheaper and more abundant in America
  • Some Germans also came to America for democracy, due to political persecution from the autocracy in Germany- there was not a lot of freedom in Germany


  • Between 1845 and 1850 there was a potato famine in Ireland, so the Irish immigrated to escape the famine and because of the land and economy of America.
  • Many of the immigrants were Catholics from poorer classes (the Irish were the poorest white immigrants)
    • American Protestants became very hostile and anti-Catholicism with the Irish (the Americans thought the Irish were inferior)
    • due to the increase in Catholic immigration anti-immigrant societies were created and the American Party was born
    • also not received well by the Native Americans
  • The Irish accepted lower wages and were taking the jobs of Americans
  • The Irish men helped dig canals and railroads  and the women were domestic servants or worked in the textile mills
    • the majority of the canal work done by the Irish
    • where they congregated in New York ( Five Points District became the worst slum in America)
  • “ Irish Need Not Apply”- a sign said this for the Irish when they looked for jobs in industries.


  • Political organisations would help the immigrants in return for their votes.
    • The Germans and Irish mostly aligned themselves with the Democratic Party
    • Irish hated abolitionism because they feared they would lose their jobs if the slaves were freed and the Whigs’ religious values threatened those of the Irish and Germans
    • They even disliked the public school reform
  •  The  Irish and the Germans drank a lot
  • The labour could be slavish, and they were not protected.