Why does the narrator call himself an “invisible man”?
The narrator calls himself an “invisible man” not because others literally cannot see him, but because others fail to see him for who is really is. The narrator links his invisibility to his skin color. Although his dark skin makes him stand out in a culture that remains very vigilant about racial difference, the narrator’s hypervisibility paradoxically blinds others to his internal life. That is, they see only his skin color, not his inner character. Like everyone else, the narrator has complex emotional, intellectual, and existential responses to the world. However, others tend to treat him like a pawn and subordinate his desires to their own.
Why does the narrator’s grandfather tell him to “overcome ’em with yeses."?
Throughout the novel the narrator ruminates on his grandfather’s suggestion that he subvert those in power with affirmation: “I want you to overcome ’em with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death.” The old man never explained his words, so the narrator must interpret his grandfather’s meaning for himself. For much of the book the narrator feels disturbed by these words, because he thinks they mean he should abandon his own agency and simply act servile. At the end of the novel, however, he decides that his grandfather meant he should take an affirmative stance toward the world in all its problematic complexity. Only then can he hope to effect change.
What happens to Tod Clifton after he leaves the Brotherhood?
After he leaves the Brotherhood, Tod Clifton turns to selling “Sambo” dolls on the street. These dolls perpetuate the harmful stereotype of Black servility. Like puppets, the Sambo dolls can be manipulated by invisible strings and made to dance, referencing the way Black slaves were forced to provide entertainment for their controlling white masters. The narrator feels shocked that a Black man like Clifton would sell such a racist toy. However, he never learns his former colleague’s reasons for doing so, since the police kill Clifton in the street.
Who is Rinehart?
Rinehart is a man the narrator learns about through encounters with various people who mistake the narrator for him. To each of these people, Rinehart appears to be a different person. Some know him as a pimp, whereas others know him as a gambling bookie, and yet others know him as their preacher. Because the men never meet, the narrator is not sure whether Rinehart really exists. Even so, the name comes to symbolize a freedom of identity for which the narrator longs, and which he attempts to achieve by donning a disguise comprised of sunglasses and a hat.
Why does the narrator turn against the Brotherhood?
The narrator turns against the Brotherhood because he realizes the organization’s leadership never really valued his contribution to their collective work. Despite his sincere desire to help organize the Black and white working-class community of Harlem, the narrator increasingly comes up against resistance from the Brotherhood. Eventually he learns that the Brotherhood helped engineer a race riot, effectively tearing Harlem apart rather than uplifting it. Ultimately, the narrator sees that his own loyalty to the Brotherhood has made him betray his own community.