Greg Reynolds

Mrs. May

AP English per. 4

October 9, 2003

Word of Mouth

        “Hey!  Where you goin’,” Skyler said as his brother walked out the door with a binder full of notes in his hand.  “I’m gonna give a talk at the school board meeting to try to persuade them to ease up on the dress code,” Chance responded.  “There’s no way Dude!  Your gonna get shut down,” Skyler exclaimed with skepticism.  Chance answered nonchalantly, “Nah, it’ll be easy.  I’ll just turn on the charm and get into their heads.  By the time I’m done with them, they’ll be beggin’ me to fix the rest of their policies.”  Words can have great power.  Just by hearing words of advice, people can be persuaded to do certain things, feel certain ways (18).  Ralph Ellison explores the power of words in his novel Invisible Man.  He utilizes many techniques through the narrator’s speeches to show how the narrator changes and develops individualism.

        Ellison begins the story with the narrator as he catered to the wants of others to be accepted in society.  Immediately after introducing himself, the protagonist described the battle royal in which he partook upon graduating from high school (11). He explained that he expected to recite his graduation speech to the “town’s bigshots,” but that when he arrived at the hall he was told that since he was to be there anyway he might as well take part in the battle royal as part of the entertainment. This was his first submission to an outside instruction, and the pattern continued throughout the book until his realization became more and more clear. The invisible man justified his early actions by saying that “there was nothing to do but what we were told” (Ellison 21). He was able to ignore the significance of the early violence by simply accepting it as a routine part of life.  The protagonist was quick to mention that for most of his life he chose “to deny the violence of [his] days by ignoring it” (5). During a dramatic scene, the invisible man ignored the commotion when he brought Mr. Norton to the Golden Day, a low-class bar full of psychiatric patients “gesticulating to themselves” and the scene of their violent insurrection. The scene itself had no effect on his evaluation of his actions. He began to realize that he must think for himself only after he was expelled for poor decision-making; he ignored the fact that he almost got Mr. Norton killed during the bar fight when considering his actions (19).  

Join now!

        A few months after his expulsion, the narrator witnessed the eviction of an elderly black couple from a tenement in Harlem, and his involvement began to play a role in his progression toward individualism. While looking at their possessions “piled in a jumble” on the sidewalk, he recognized that he and they share a culture and that they were being robbed of that culture and history (10). This knowledge alone, however, was not enough to draw him to action. It was not until he “surged with fear” that a violent struggle was about to occur that he ran forward and presented ...

This is a preview of the whole essay