"Invisible Man," Vocabulary from the Prologue-Chapter 6

October 7, 2013
Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" is an indictment of everything that will not let the (nameless) main character be wholly, visibly himself.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Prologue-Chapter 6, Chapters 7-11, Chapters 12-19, Chapter 20-Epilogue
You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you're a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you.
Yet when you have lived invisible as long as I have you develop a certain ingenuity.
Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead.
It was exhausting—as though I had held my breath continuously for an hour under the terrifying serenity that comes from days of intense hunger.
And if he had yelled for a policeman, wouldn't I have been taken for the offending one?
About eighty-five years ago they were told that they were free, united with others of our country in everything pertaining to the common good, and, in everything social, separate like the fingers of the hand.
On my graduation day I delivered an oration in which I showed that humility was the secret, indeed, the very essence of progress.
And besides, I suspected that fighting a battle royal might detract from the dignity of my speech.
We were a small tight group, clustered together, our bare upper bodies touching and shining with anticipatory sweat; while up front the big shots were becoming increasingly excited over something we still could not see.
As the dancer flung herself about with a detached expression on her face, the men began reaching out to touch her.
I lay prone, pretending that I was knocked out, but felt myself seized by hands and yanked to my feet.
I played one group against the other, slipping in and throwing a punch then stepping out of range while pushing the others into the melee to take the blows blindly aimed at me.
It was a dream fall, my body languid and fastidious as to where to land, until the floor became impatient and smashed up to meet me.
I was going out into the dim alley in despair when I was stopped and told to go back.
And like him I say, and in his words, 'To those of my race who depend upon bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is his next-door neighbor, I would say: "Cast down your bucket where you are"—cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded.'
I spoke automatically and with such fervor that I did not realize that the men were still talking and laughing until my dry mouth, filling up with blood from the cut, almost strangled me.
The room filled with the uproar of laughter until, no doubt, distracted by having to gulp down my blood, I made a mistake and yelled a phrase I had often seen denounced in newspaper editorials, heard debated in private.
That had all passed now with his disgrace, and what on the part of the school officials had been an attitude of contempt blunted by tolerance, had now become a contempt sharpened by hate.
Some were hostile, some cringing, some horrified; some, who when among themselves were most violent, now appeared as submissive as children.
An utterly stupid proposition, and these hands so lovingly trained to master a scalpel yearn to caress a trigger.
Already he's learned to repress not only his emotions but his humanity.
To you he is a mark on the score-card of your achievement, a thing and not a man; a child, or even less—a black amorphous thing.
He believes in that great false wisdom taught slaves and pragmatists alike, that white is right.
And in the chapel on Sunday evenings upon the platform, hadn't he always taught us to live content in our place in a thousand unambiguous words?
I had hoped that by serving him the rest of the week I could win back his esteem.
I too had touched a white man today and I felt that it had been disastrous, and I realized then that he was the only one of us whom I knew—except perhaps a barber or a nursemaid—who could touch a white man with impunity.
I wondered to which of them I might go to intercede for me with Dr. Bledsoe, but within myself I knew that there was no one.
I sat thinking of the dread possibility of having to leave all this, of being expelled; imagining the return home and the rebukes of my parents.
Then around me everyone was singing Lead me, lead me to a rock that is higher than I. And as though the sound contained some force more imperious than the image of the scene of which it was the living connective tissue, I was pulled back to its immediacy.
And you know how he escaped and made his way across mountain and valley to that place of learning and how he persisted and worked noontimes, nights and mornings for the privilege of studying, or, as the old folk would say, of 'rubbing his head against the college wall.'
Ah, yes, those indescribably glorious days, in which the Founder was building the dream not only here in this then barren valley, but hither and yonder throughout the land, instilling the dream in the hearts of the people.
I closed my eyes as I heard the deep moaning sound that issued from him, and the rising crescendo of the student body joining in.
I kept trying to formulate what I would say to Dr. Bledsoe, and the boys must have turned into their building, for suddenly finding myself outside the gates of the campus and heading down the highway, I turned and ran back to the building.
Your poor judgment has caused this school incalculable damage.
Trueblood, Mr. Norton, Dr. Bledsoe and the Golden Day swept around my mind in a mad surreal whirl.

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Sunday October 20th 2013, 6:30 AM
Comment by: maya K. (India)
I didn't understand the meaning of some words .will you please make me understand in a simple language.

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