An “Invisible Man” Finale

As promised, I found the evasive Soon, One Morning; it’s not on the internet which is saying a lot–I mean everything is on the internet, right? Wrong. So suffice it to say I voyaged to ETHS’ trusty Central Library instead of enduring another day of The Writing Center–funnily enough, I don’t find its environment very conducive to writing. Being in Central Library makes me want to write a novel or perhaps just make a career out of being a librarian. Like I said, this final(e) post will, like most of my Invisible Man writings, be woman-related and more precisely it’ll be about Mary. I’m prepared to give Ellison the benefit of the doubt on the “woman issue.” Let’s see what he has to say.

A few notes on the book before really diving into its contents. It’s from 1965 so it’s pretty old. The book has only been checked out twice since the turn of the century. It seems to have never been popular with only five check-outs in its heyday. After some brief googling (turns out the internet isn’t useless after all), I’ve found some notes on the man who put this collection together: Herbert Hill. Interestingly enough, he was the labor director for the NAACP for twenty-eight years. It seems that his personal relationships with many of the authors in the collection helped him to procure some of the previously unpublished work that it contains, like this piece by Ellison.

Okay now on to the good stuff, the stuff I’ve been searching the internet for days for. Included with “Out of the Hospital and Under the Bar” is a note from Ralph Ellison on the piece. He expresses regrets about cutting the chapter out of the novel which I can appreciate. He says that Invisible Man would’ve “been a better book” had he not cut it out (243). That being said, he did cut it which, personally, I find unfair to the reader and to women in general. It also sort of irks me that he says that he’s “pleased for Mary’s sake to see this version in print,” why for Mary’s sake? Shouldn’t it be for the sake of all women? Also if he really felt as strongly about this chapter as he makes it sound, I’d be willing to be he could’ve left it in. Men.

The chapter, “Out of the Hospital and Under the Bar,” amounts to approximately forty pages. After reading it, I have to say that I’m mildly disappointed. The story picks up following the explosion at the paint factory and follows through until when T.I.M. would’ve met Mary in Harlem. A very brief summary of what transpires is that T.I.M. wakes up in the hospital to Mary who is trying to help him out of his predicament, a.k.a being strapped down in a hospital bed. She insists that T.IM. knows why he’s there and refuses to help him until he tells her why. He insists that he knows nothing about what landed him in his situation but eventually he makes something up to procure her help and finally escapes the hospital, the machine.

While I can understand that this chapter shows Mary as more of a risk-taker and self-reliant than how the book does, I just think the chapter that was published is much better, much more cohesive in the scope of the novel. It pains me to say this because I’m all for strong women characters. I’m slightly reassured however to hear Ellison voice his regrets saying that Mary “deserved more space in the novel,” because I agree, but I can also see why this chapter doesn’t fit in the book (243). By portraying Mary as a sort of savior, I think the novel’s focus shifts too much–after all isn’t it T.I.M.’s journey that’s in question. I like Mary. I like the novel. Yet, I’m not so sold on “Out of the Hospital and Under the Bar.” Maybe Ellison does know what he’s doing. The cut was necessary.

I doubt Ellison was looking for my or any other woman’s approval when he cut this chapter but I’ll let him have it. It’s also important to note that the addition of this chapter would not make up for all of the sexist depictions of women peppered throughout Invisible Man. It would take Ellison more than a few revisions to fix those issues. I also have to concede that maybe my “one-pagers” didn’t get progressively better; I definitely peaked on number three. Throughout the year, I enjoyed doing most (if not all) of my English assignments, but these one-pagers I particularly savored. That’s why I’m sad for them to come to an end. I suppose they don’t have to–but after all, what is a writer without a reader? Who knows, maybe I’ll write one more just for the hell of it, just to prove that I didn’t peak at three. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man isn’t as terrible as my first assessment of the text. These one-pagers showed me that. They’re a tool that I will not take for granted in my future English endeavors, even if they do lack a reader.  

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One thought on “An “Invisible Man” Finale

  1. Interesting, I heard you talk about wanting to find the missing chapter that elaborates on Mary and helps bring a strong woman character into the book. While I am happy that you found the missing chapter along with some notes about the chapter it is disappointing to say the least that you believe that Ellison was right in cutting out the chapter. I feel that, especially during our discussions, Ellison could have and should have done more to the females in the book and that he did not do them justice with having them simply be there without any sort of definitive structure to them. But after sitting back and thinking about how the book would change if Mary was a savior for the Invisible Man I would have to agree with you in saying that too drastic of a change would happen within these chapters. If he were to be rescued he would be left dependent on Mary and I fear that this would hinder him from finding who he is and becoming more aware of his predicament; being asleep when he should be awake. I also personally feel that being released from the hospital confused alone and frightened led him to find Mary which of course puts her in good light with the readers. I wish that I would add more but I am afraid that I did not take a feminist lens to reading Invisible Man and do not have much more to add. I can however agree with with you wrote about the female characters in this book and how they are all very weak and portrayed in an extremely sexists manner.

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