"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, Chapter 20-Epilogue

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. gratitude
    a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation
    "I've been working downtown," I said, feeling a surge of gratitude.
  2. proceed
    move ahead; travel onward in time or space
    Somewhat to my surprise there were a good number of members in the hall when I awoke, and having no directives from the committee on how to proceed I organized them into teams to search for Brother Clifton.
  3. denounce
    speak out against
    I had blown up and acted personally instead of denouncing the significance of the dolls, him, the obscene idea, and seizing the opportunity to educate the crowd.
  4. envy
    a desire to have something that is possessed by another
    And several yards behind, marching beside the young men floating the coffin upward, I looked into the face of the old man who had aroused the song and felt a twinge of envy.
  5. transcendent
    exceeding or surpassing usual limits
    It was not the words, for they were all the same old slave-borne words; it was as though he'd changed the emotion beneath the words while yet the old longing, resigned, transcendent emotion still sounded above, now deepened by that something for which the theory of Brotherhood had given me no name.
  6. listless
    lacking zest or vivacity
    I felt confused and listless moving through the crowds that seemed to boil along in a kind of mist, as though the thin humid clouds had thickened and settled directly above our heads.
  7. vile
    morally reprehensible
    Under your leadership, a traitorous merchant of vile instruments of anti-Negro, anti-minority racist bigotry has received the funeral of a hero.
  8. objective
    the goal intended to be attained
    I was ordered to carry through an objective and I carried it through.
  9. deceitful
    marked by deliberate deceptiveness
    What are you doing about our black youth shot down beca'se of your deceitful organization?
  10. garish
    tastelessly showy
    My eyes adjusted quickly; the world took on a dark-green intensity, the lights of cars glowed like stars, faces were a mysterious blur; the garish signs of movie houses muted down to a soft sinister glowing.
  11. disintegrate
    break into parts or components or lose cohesion or unity
    He blew a smoke ring, the blue-gray circle rising up boiling within its own jetting form, hovering for an instant then disintegrating into a weaving strand.
  12. vanguard
    the position of greatest importance or advancement
    "At any rate, through our very position in the vanguard we must do and say the things necessary to get the greatest number of the people to move toward what is for their own good."
  13. tolerate
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    If they tolerate Rinehart, then they will forget it and even with them you are invisible.
  14. arrogant
    having or showing feelings of unwarranted importance
    I had switched from the arrogant absurdity of Norton and Emerson to that of Jack and the Brotherhood, and it all came out the same—except I now recognized my invisibility.
  15. undermine
    weaken or impair, especially gradually
    I'd overcome them with yeses, undermine them with grins, I'd agree them to death and destruction.
  16. lull
    make calm or still
    I would hide my anger and lull them to sleep; assure them that the community was in full agreement with their program.
  17. fitful
    occurring in spells and often abruptly
    Finally I tossed the glasses across the bed and dropped into a fitful nap during which I relived the events of the last few days; except that instead ot Clifton being lost it was myself, and I awoke stale, sweaty and aware of perfume.
  18. predetermine
    establish beforehand
    They were vindicated; the program was correct, events were progressing in their predetermined direction, history was on their side, and Harlem loved them.
  19. wistful
    showing pensive sadness
    I had always pretended not to understand, for not only had my first such experience taught me to avoid such situations, but at the Chthonian she was usually slightly tipsy and wistful—just the type of misunderstood married woman whom, even if I had been interested, I would have avoided like the plague.
  20. ideology
    an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group
    For all her exposure to ideology she had no interest in politics and no idea of the schemes that occupied her husband night and day.
  21. temperament
    your usual mood
    And, although I had neither the stature nor the temperament for either role, I was expected either to sing "Old Man River" and just keep rolling along, or to do fancy tricks with my muscles.
  22. beckon
    summon with a wave, nod, or some other gesture
    Now it was late and as I came into the room with another round of drinks she had let down her hair and was beckoning to me with a gold hairpin in her teeth, saying, "Come to mamma, beautiful," from where she sat on the bed.
  23. unscathed
    not injured
    There was a pristine incorruptibility about her face now that upset me all the more, for she was neither kidding nor trying to insult me; and I could not tell if it were horror speaking to me out of innocence, or innocence emerging unscathed from the obscene scheme of the evening.
  24. discern
    detect with the senses
    And in the dark windows and on the roofs above I could now discern the forms of women and children.
  25. imperturbable
    marked by extreme calm and composure
    And my heart tightened as the first crowd swung imperturbably back to their looting with derisive cries, like sandpipers swinging around to glean the shore after a furious wave's recession.
  26. inquisition
    a severe interrogation
    That is the real soul-sickness, the spear in the side, the drag by the neck through the mob-angry town, the Grand Inquisition, the embrace of the Maiden, the rip in the belly with the guts spilling out, the trip to the chamber with the deadly gas that ends in the oven so hygienically clean—only it's worse because you continue stupidly to live.
  27. ornery
    having a difficult and contrary disposition
    No indeed, the world is just as concrete, ornery, vile and sublimely wonderful as before, only now I better understand my relation to it and it to me.
  28. imply
    suggest as a logically necessary consequence
    Perhaps to lose a sense of where you are implies the danger of losing a sense of who you are.
  29. lethargy
    inactivity; showing an unusual lack of energy
    Nor will certain ideas forget me; they keep filing away at my lethargy, my complacency.
  30. disembodied
    not having a material body
    Being invisible and without substance, a disembodied voice, as it were, what else could I do?

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