"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, Chapters 7-11

In Ralph Ellison's classic novel, a nameless narrator struggles with his sense of identity in a world that treats him like he is invisible.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Prologue-Chapter 6, Chapters 7-11, Chapters 12-19, Chapter 20-Epilogue

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. foreshadowing
    the act of providing vague advance indications
    His way of talking to Mr. Norton had been a foreshadowing of my misfortune—just as I had sensed that it would be.
  2. furtive
    marked by quiet and caution and secrecy
    The car roared and swayed, pressing me hard against her, but when I took a furtive glance around no one was paying me the slightest attention.
  3. quavering
    (of the voice) quivering as from weakness or fear
    I thought of home and the attempts my father had made to institute family prayer, the gathering around the stove at mealtime and kneeling with heads bowed over the seats of our chairs, his voice quavering and full of church-house rhetoric and verbal humility.
  4. profoundly
    to a great depth psychologically
    Then he'd clear his throat and give a deeply intoned order, as though each syllable were pregnant with nuances of profoundly important meaning.
  5. suppress
    control and refrain from showing
    I recalled my expulsion, feeling quick anger and attempting to suppress it immediately; but now I was not quite successful, my resentment stuck out at the edges, making me uncomfortable.
  6. scandalous
    giving offense to moral sensibilities
    Somehow I felt that Bledsoe and Norton were behind it, and all day I was inhibited in both speech and conduct, for fear that I might say or do something scandalous.
  7. deference
    a courteous expression of esteem or regard
    I was miserable and I dared not talk to anyone about my problems; not even the officials at Men's House, for since they had learned that I was to be assigned to an important job, they treated me with a certain deference; therefore I was careful to hide my growing doubts.
  8. intrigue
    cause to be interested or curious
    I would be basically the same, I thought, stirring my coffee, yet so subtly changed as to intrigue those who had never been North.
  9. aback
    by surprise
    I was dazzled and so taken aback that I almost dropped my briefcase when I heard a voice say, "And what would your business be?"
  10. ambition
    a strong drive for success
    " Ambition is a wonderful force," he said, "but sometimes it can be blinding."
  11. irony
    incongruity between what might be expected and what occurs
    There was unmistakable irony in his voice now, and I didn't know what to say.
  12. catharsis
    purging of emotional tensions
    Please don't misunderstand me; I don't say all this to impress you. Or to give myself some kind of sadistic catharsis.
  13. deportment
    the way a person behaves toward other people
    The bearer of this letter is a former student of ours (I say former because he shall never, under any circumstances, be enrolled as a student here again) who has been expelled for a most serious defection from our strictest rules of deportment.
  14. severance
    a personal or social separation
    Thus, while the bearer is no longer a member of our scholastic family, it is highly important that his severance with the college be executed as painlessly as possible.
  15. insinuation
    an indirect (and usually malicious) implication
    There was a note of insinuation in his voice, and I looked up from tying my shoe, breathing with conscious evenness.
  16. dissimulate
    hide feelings from other people
    Maybe he was dissimulating, like some of the teachers at the college, who, to avoid trouble when driving through the small surrounding towns, wore chauffeur caps and pretended that their cars belonged to white men.
  17. clarity
    the quality of being coherent and easily understood
    Then a great weight landed upon me and I seemed to sprawl in an interval of clarity beneath a pile of broken machinery, my head pressed back against a huge wheel, my body splattered with a stinking goo.
  18. futility
    uselessness as a consequence of having no practical result
    Somewhere an engine ground in furious futility, grating loudly until a pain shot around the curve of my head and bounced me off into blackness for a distance, only to strike another pain that lobbed me back.
  19. garrulous
    full of trivial conversation
    Holding on grimly, I could hear the sound of someone wading, sloshing, nearby, and an old man's garrulous voice saying, "I tole 'em these here young Nineteen-Hundred boys ain't no good for the job. They ain't got the nerves. Naw, sir, they just ain't got the nerves."
  20. irrevocable
    incapable of being retracted
    I tried to speak, to answer, but something heavy moved again, and I was understanding something fully and trying again to answer but seemed to sink to the center of a lake of heavy water and pause, transfixed and numb with the sense that I had lost irrevocably an important victory.
  21. limpid
    clear and bright
    Green hedges, dazzling with red wild roses appeared behind my eyes, stretching with a gentle curving to an infinity empty of objects, a limpid blue space.
  22. decorous
    characterized by propriety and dignity and good taste
    Scenes of a shaded lawn in summer drifted past; I saw a uniformed military band arrayed decorously in concert, each musician with well-oiled hair, heard a sweet-voiced trumpet rendering "The Holy City" as from an echoing distance, buoyed by a choir of muted horns; and above, the mocking obbligato of a mocking bird.
  23. torpid
    slow and apathetic
    The air seemed to grow thick with fine white gnats, filling my eyes, boiling so thickly that the dark trumpeter breathed them in and expelled them through the bell of his golden horn, a live white cloud mixing with the tones upon the torpid air.
  24. lobotomy
    surgery on nerves to and from the frontal lobe of the brain
    "The machine will produce the results of a prefrontal lobotomy without the negative effects of the knife," the voice said.
  25. inscrutable
    of an obscure nature
    Faces hovered above me like inscrutable fish peering myopically through a glass aquarium wall.
  26. suitable
    meant or adapted for an occasion or use
    Maybe I was just this blackness and bewilderment and pain, but that seemed less like a suitable answer than something I'd read somewhere.
  27. conceive
    have the idea for
    It was exhausting, for no matter what the scheme I conceived, there was one constant flaw—myself.
  28. rigor
    excessive sternness
    You aren't ready for the rigors of industry.
  29. compensate
    make payment to
    And remember, you'll be adequately compensated for your experience.
  30. affidavit
    written declaration made under oath
    "We require an affidavit releasing the company of responsibility," he said.

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