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Ralph Ellison, 1914-1994, was a Midwesterner, born in Oklahoma and educated at the famous Tuskegee Institute.

He influenced black literature by having written only one book. The highly acclaimed book, Invisible Man, is a story of a black man who lives underground: his home is an escapist cave
lit by the unlimited electricity stolen from a utility company.

When the man leaves this shelter (which would remind some of that netherworld coziness they saw on the TV series [i]Beauty and the Beast/i]) he experiences the reality of the grotesquely bright world aboveground: he wins a scholarship to a black college and is humiliated by whites; he attends the college and sees the black president ridiculing black American issues. The after-the-college life offers him more of the grotesque: a preacher turns out to be a criminal.

The man exited his underground paradise to find a society that has no interest to provide its citizens black and white with moral goals and ideals as well as institutions for realizing them. The book is the first to have formulated an objective racial theme and a sophisticated statement: the invisible man is invisible because the narrow-minded world cannot see him for who he is. As he says in the prologue:

"I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me."

Ellison is famous for the quote: "Literature is colorblind."

Initially, many in the Black Arts movement shunned Ellison because he dreamed openly of America as a land of cultural synergy.

Ellison was an accomplished jazz trumpeter and a free-lance photographer.





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Comments

The following comments are for "Black Escapism and Alienation: Ralph Waldo Ellison"
by Teflon

@Demeter@
I think there are so many fascinating black writers out there who are not in the spotlight. Maybe it is because the spotlight has been centered on political activity. The adage that the pen is mightier than $100,000 campaign fund seems to have been forgotten.

Lit needs black angst, black imagery. I am underinformed in this department.

Thankz,

Telefan.

( Posted by: Teflon [Member] On: December 17, 2004 )

African American
There are alot of websites dedicated to African American writing, where modern day writers post their pieces for everyone to read and get feedback. It is some of the most powerful contemporary writing we have today.

Thanks for sharing this information Teflon.

Alex

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: December 17, 2004 )

dissent
Having read the book, it seems as though his life in the underground, where he stole electricity from "monopolated power and light," is where the character ends up; not where he really starts.
Ellison does a great job with imagery associated with blackness and whiteness.
For those who want to read a recent book, try The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other by Randall Robinson. He makes some excellent observations about society today.

( Posted by: brickhouse [Member] On: December 20, 2004 )

don't get it
is this a review, or a synopsis?

( Posted by: brad [Member] On: December 28, 2004 )





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