7. Invisible Man (1952): Bildung, Politics, and Rhetorical Design

  1. James Phelan

Published Online: 1 APR 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118512876.ch7

Reading the American Novel 1920-2010

Reading the American Novel 1920-2010

How to Cite

Phelan, J. (2013) Invisible Man (1952): Bildung, Politics, and Rhetorical Design, in Reading the American Novel 1920-2010, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118512876.ch7

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 APR 2013
  2. Published Print: 10 APR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780631230670

Online ISBN: 9781118512876

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Keywords:

  • Invisible Man;
  • novel;
  • politics;
  • Ralph Ellison;
  • rhetorical reading

Summary

Three novels, A Farewell to Arms, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, use the general structure of the Bildungsroman, employ narration that raises epistemological issues, and make thematic issues of identity and understanding one's place in the world central to the narrative progression. One of the critical debates about the novel, Invisible Man, concerns the Epilogue, with its embrace of multicultural American democracy and its move toward universalism. This chapter enters this debate via the principles of rhetorical reading, which lead the author to pay special attention to the relation between the Prologue and the Epilogue. The author sides with those who find the Epilogue flawed, but he hopes to shed some new light on the reasons why. And unlike others who find fault with it, he suggests that in some ways it is a happy mistake (felix culpa).