Interviews: Invisible Man

Considered one the best novels written after WWII, Invisible Man follows the journey of a young African-American finding his way from darkness to light. While the novel may be profound and immensely interesting, the man behind it is even more so. Ralph Ellison seems to embody eloquence; when giving an interview in the late ‘60s, he presents himself in a captivating way. He doesn’t speak too forcefully, nor quickly (in fact he stutters just slightly), but what he does say is quite elegant. He begins the interview talking about the United States, and all the novels about it not really capturing its’ idea. Ellison then delves into his uncomfortableness during interviews, even though he finds the whole ordeal fascinating. He worries that people will be “Interpreting [his] face, [his] statements in terms of [his] racial identity rather than the quality of what [he has] to say” (3:45- 3:55). While during that time period that may be true, today- and probably then- people had to appreciate his manner of speaking and the sense of humbleness he give off, no matter his race.

Ellison talks of having the greatest state of “Unconscious focus … when [he’s] writing,” particularly when he began writing Invisible Man and how that focus helped him to write the first line of the novel “I am an invisible man” (10:50-10:55). He muses on the length of time it took him to complete the novel and his motivation to (seeing an old friend with a puffy, insane face, then waking up to his puffy face), then how difficult it was to incorporate certain events. Ellison describes “snatching [moments] out of the realm of known” being troublesome because he “knew that [he] was giving them another meaning” (12: 40- 13:00). Which is interesting to find out that some moments in the novel weren’t just made up, but snippets from his own life. This interview was interesting, watching it the first time will help to give someone the idea of Ellison’s eloquence and the ability to sound ridiculously intelligent, yet humble. But I think if someone were to watch it again, and really understand what he is saying and his ability to convey messages, they would be amazed.

Ellison’s Interview:


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