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Q: Ralph Ellison ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Ralph Ellison
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: kiethw321-ga
List Price: $18.00
Posted: 05 May 2005 14:00 PDT
Expires: 04 Jun 2005 14:00 PDT
Question ID: 518226
Why does the novel "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison speak to a
universal audience; i.e., why does it appeal to white audiences?
Subject: Re: Ralph Ellison
Answered By: richard-ga on 18 May 2005 13:48 PDT
Hello and thank you for your question.

Here are some reasons why the book has universal appeal:

TERRITORY were transformative in our thinking about race, identity,
and what it means to be American. On the power of three books, Ellison
both accelerated America's literary project and helped define and
clarify arguments about race in this country. Ellison's outlook was
universal: he saw the predicament of blacks in America as a metaphor
for the universal human challenge of finding a viable identity in a
chaotic and sometimes indifferent world. The universality and
accomplishment of Ellison's writing can be seen in the breadth of his
continuing influence on other writers, from Toni Morrison and Charles
Johnson to Kurt Vonnegut and the late Joseph Heller. Fifty years after
the publishing of INVISIBLE MAN, Ralph Ellison's voice continues to
speak to all of us."

"Invisible Man might be reduced to a period piece if it were primarily
a vision of African American dilemmas. The novel's permanence stems
from its universality." (Harold Bloom, Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred
Exemplary Creative Minds. New York: Warner, 2002, p. 808), cited in

"Many of the reviews of Invisible Man stress ideas associated with the
new liberalism, such as the universality of Ellison's theme and his
concern for the individual (see Barrett, 1952; Bellow, 1952; Cassidy,
1952; Chase, 1952; Lewis, 1952; Mayberry, 1952; Morris, 1952; Rollo,
1952; Delmore Schwartz, 1952;Webster, 1952)." cited in

"Invisible Man treats a specific case of injustice, but the reason
members of every race and era will be moved by the novel is that each
of us has at one time or another felt powerless and victims of
injustice. I do not have to be Ellison's unnamed protagonist, nor even
a black man, to "get it," to empathize, to share with other readers
the same sensations and similar reactions, which I dare say shall be
felt by my great-grandchildren when they read it."

For more content addressing the universality of Ellison's 'Invisible
Man,' try this Google Search:

Thanks again for letting us help.
Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Ralph Ellison
From: pinkfreud-ga on 05 May 2005 14:18 PDT
The best writing almost always appeals to people who are not identical
to the characters described in the book. You don't have to be an old
man to enjoy "King Lear." You don't have to be a young girl to
appreciate "Through the Looking Glass." And you don't have to be an
African-American to be moved by "Invisible Man."
Subject: Re: Ralph Ellison
From: squirrelgirl-ga on 18 May 2005 11:37 PDT
Agreeing with pinkfreud, I would also add that the themes of isolation
and the struggle to find one's true identity relates to many readers
who, though they don't experince it in the same way or to the same
extent, can relate to the ideas and emotions in "Invisible Man".

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