Chapter 1 of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" is a powerful introduction to the novel, setting the tone for the themes and characters that will be explored throughout. The chapter is broken up into several small sections, each of which tells its own story and contributes to the overall narrative.
The chapter begins with the narrator explaining that he is an invisible man, invisible not in a literal sense, but in the way that society sees and treats him. He is a black man living in America during the early 20th century, and as such, he is constantly reminded of his status as a second-class citizen. This theme of invisibility is central to the novel, and the opening chapter immediately draws the reader in with its vivid imagery and powerful language.
Throughout the first section of the chapter, the narrator recounts the story of his grandfather, who was a slave who was granted his freedom shortly before the end of the Civil War. The grandfather was asked to give a speech to commemorate the occasion, but instead of celebrating his newfound freedom, he spoke out against the way that black people were still being treated in America. This act of defiance led to the grandfather being punished, and the narrator uses this story to illustrate the cycle of oppression that has been passed down through the generations.
The second section of the chapter sees the narrator attending college, where he is recruited by a group of white men who claim to be interested in his intellect...