03 Feb Invisible Man – Characters
The main character of the book remains the invisible man. This article described the characters in the book vividly.
The Narrator (Invisible Man)
The narrator’s identity, whom the author introduces to readers only as the “invisible man,” is never known till the end of the novel. The narrator is the protagonist; his character influenced other characters’ behavior throughout the story.
After enrolling in the college, the narrator was known as the “college student” and continues to assume new identities in every new community he joins. In his encounter with the Brotherhood, Jack demands he abandon his previous identity as a prerequisite for his induction into the organization.
In each of his encounters with the communities, he never stubbornly shrugs off their demands. He accepted the Brotherhood’s demands until he perceived their ulterior motive; reverted to his earlier identity. Although the narrator slavishly abandons his previous identity to get accepted into a new community, his identity has still remained unknown to readers throughout the story.
The narrator is a black American living in South America around 1930 and is faced with racism and stereotype, giving him reasons to live disconnectedly from a world full of blind people.
In fear of blind people, the narrator decides to live underground, away from the world, where he enjoys the light connected illegally to his underground room. While he emerges from underground to pursue a visible self, his illusions become shattered firstly by his bitter experience in the Royal Battle, secondly in the Limited Paint Plant, and thirdly in the Brotherhood.
Leader of the Brotherhood. He encounters the narrator’s impassioned speech to crowds gathering to see the emotional eviction of an elderly black couple in Harlem. This attracted him to the narrator of his rousing speech and oratory skill. He offers the narrator the position of the spokesperson of the Brotherhood, which he rejects initially and accepts later.
While meeting the narrator for the first time, Jack presents himself to the naive and inexperienced narrator as a compassionate, friendly, and helpful white man who opposes an unequal world and works tirelessly to make it habitable to everyone. He demands the narrator change his identity and apartment and detach himself entirely from his past before being inducted into the Brotherhood.
In the wake of Clifton’s burial, Jack castigates the narrator for holding a public burial for a member of the Brotherhood and sends him away to Harlem to learn the new strategies of the Brotherhood. Pissed off by Jack’s sudden change and irrational behavior, the narrator plans how to take revenge on him. At this time, he had realized the Brotherhood used him as a tool to advance their aims and noticed that Jack shared the same racial views against Black Americans as other whites. Thus, he sought to break away from the same organization as Clifton.
Mr. Norton: A wealthy white trustee of the college
The narrator is assigned to chauffeur him, and on one of their drives, the narrator mistakenly drives Mr.Norton to old slave quarters, where he stops at Jim Trueblood’s cabin. Trueblood is an uneducated and black poor sharecropper, who was notorious for his incestuous act with his wife and daughter. Norton picks interest in Trueblood’s story of incest and that of other institutionalized blacks at the Golden Days bar.
Although Mr.Norton is a racist and narcissist who believes he has created a promising opportunity for the narrator and the entire black community, he still defends the narrator when he was punished for driving him around the dark side of the black neighborhood. When the narrator was laid off for exposing the trustee to the dark side of the college, Mr. Norton stands for him, although Dr. Bledsoe stayed up in the arms to sacrifice a fellow black for the white and expels the narrator consequently.
He’s the president of the college. Bledsoe’s character is heartless, treacherous, and harsh only to fellow blacks and behaves otherwise when mingling with the white. Dr. Bledsoe expels the narrator from the college for showing Mr.Norton the dark side of the college’s outskirts, which Mr.Norton was not supposed to see. He sends away the narrator to perceived potential employers in New York with letters of recommendation disguised to deny him a job and purposely to trick the narrator out of the college environment forever over his mishap.
Tod Clifton: The youth leader of the Brotherhood
In the words of the narrator, Clifton is a handsome, intelligent, and tall black man whose passion to better the lives of the black community and other repressed groups in the world persuades him into joining the Brotherhood.
His stance on the interracial of the Brotherhood brings him against Ras, who believes the Brotherhood should only be for blacks and black causes. The narrator befriends Clifton in fear of him being his rival, and they both work at the Brotherhood in Harlem.
While the narrator works on probation away from Harlem, Clifton turns away from the Brotherhood, and the narrator finds him selling Sambo dolls, a doll symbolizing black stereotypes and slaves who happily dance for their white slave masters. Because he didn’t have the right to sell wares on the street, the police came to arrest him. He resisted arrest and engaged in a scuffle with the police, making them shoot him dead while the narrator and others watched.
The narrator organized a public funeral for him without first seeking permission from the Brotherhood. At the burial, the narrator gives a rousing speech that brings life into the dying Brotherhood in Harlem. Jack is unimpressed by the narrator’s act and pained by his realistic speech at the burial, which tends to reveal the true objectives of the Brotherhood. After getting excoriated by Jack harshly over his unscientific speech at Clifton’s burial ceremony, and the hero he makes of him, the narrator learns why Clifton chooses to cut ties with the Brotherhood and follows suit.
Ras The Exhorter ( Lastly known as Ras The Destroyer)
He was a violent and radical member of the Brotherhood, who opposes the mixture of the black and white races in the novel. Readers first learn about Ras when the narrator enters Harlem, but since he dominates the rest of the story, he inflicts fear on other characters whose ideologies conflict with his. Ras thinks blacks do not have to cooperate with the racist white to rid of their subjugation, and his antagonism towards other black Brothers stems from his ideology on how blacks will overcome whites’ oppression. He’s gone to extra lengths to send mobs against the Brothers in Harlem, resulting in the Brotherhood withdrawing support for the Harlem Brotherhood.
Ras, meaning King in Amharic, a language of the Ethiopians, does appear in the robe like that of Ethiopian Ras. He unapologetically displays his blackness and reviles anyone doing the opposite. He sees other black brothers as traitors to the liberation of the black, hence using his aggressive men to harass them into thinking like him.
The withdrawal of support from the Harlem Brotherhood heightens his Influence in Harlem. On one occasion, he incites a riot in Harlem, causing a group of gangs to burn tenement houses. Ras, on horseback, leads the chaos. He sights the narrator and commands the crowd to lynch him, and the narrator narrowly escapes lynching and returns to living his invisible life.
An uneducated and poor black sharecropper lives nearby the college with his family. White people begin to develop an interest in him after he impregnates his wife and daughter while sexually dreaming.
Mr. Emerson: One of the college’s trustees
He is one of the persons the narrator was to meet in Bledsoe’s recommendation letters. After delivering the first six letters without getting feedback, the narrator holds back a while before deciding to deliver the last one at Mr.Emmerson’s home. Fortunately, the letter was intercepted by Young Emerson, Emerson’s son, who read the letter to him, revealing the wicked intent of Bledsoe.
A white woman that the narrator seduces in his quest to get some secret information about the Brotherhood, but it turns out she’s ignorant of the Brotherhood and politics. The narrator chooses her because she’s always lonely. Her husband, George, is a prominent member of the Brotherhood and always busy, making Sybil feel abandoned and begin to develop racist and wild sexual fantasies of a back man raping her.
While the narrator intends to seduce her to get secret information about the organization, Sybil sees in him a chance to make the narrator fulfill her desire of a black man raping her.
Working at the Limited Paint plant, Brockway became an engineer after working there for a long time. He sees the narrator as a traitor to his position. His suspicion of the narrator taking over his job worsens when the narrator attends the union meeting, albeit mistakenly. Consequently, he tricks the narrator into the inner chamber of the paint plant, initiates a fight with him, and runs away, leaving the narrator inside the room when the unattended tank is about to explode.
She’s the woman who comes in to rescue the narrator from the brink of death when he fainted after he returning from the hospital. Mary allows the narrator to live in her apartment initially for free before he stabilizes and begins to pay rent. Mary, although old-styled, is racially conscious and nurtures the narrator to do something to better his race. The narrator only leaves her house when he joins the Brotherhood and pulls back whenever he’s direly in need.
Mr.Emerson’s son intercepted the narrator on his visit to his home to deliver a letter to his father. He insists and reads the sealed recommendation letter given to the narrator by Dr.Bledsoe to his father for a job. Reading the letter, the narrator learns about the brutal act of the college president. Young Emerson gives the narrator hope for a job and helps him get it at the Liberty Paint plant.
He’s the white teacher and member of the Brotherhood, who taught the narrator the rhetorics of the Brotherhood in his first months of the group. The narrator recommended to see him again to learn the new strategies of the Brotherhood after he falls out with the Brothers. However, the narrator was unwilling to accept the narrow and scientific narrative of Hambro or the Brotherhood at this time.