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that his personal relationships with many of the authors in the collection helped him to procure some of the previously unpublished work that it contains, like this piece by Ellison.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.