Camille and Sam on Power
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Entry 1: Chapters 17 and 18

In these two chapters power is imposed on people in several different ways. One of these instances is when Ras brings up the fact that the Brotherhood is a primarily white organization, and the few blacks in it, like IM, Clifton, and Tarp who are just being used as puppets and have no real power. Ras talks about whites are using the enticing power of white girls and the dream that one day a black man can gain status to trick the black brothers into joining and carrying out a white agenda (370-376). If this situation is true, it creates a false sense of power within the black brothers, an occurrence very similar to when IM was first in New York and delivering the letters. Again, a higher power was making him feel like he had influence, when really that authority was depriving him of it.

Another image of power is the link that Tarp gives IM in chapter 18. The link represents Tarp's time in prison and black degradation in general. Tarp broke the link while in prison, and kept it after escaping in a flood, so it can been seen as a materialistic idea of freedom. The link can also be seen as a symbol of equality because Tarp joined the brotherhood after he escaped, so it signifies a shift from confinement and discrimination to freedom and equality.
However, through the lens of Ras' argument, the link can also be viewed as a marker of the continuation of degradation towards blacks. Tarp passes on this shackle to IM, who, if Ras is correct, is completely buying into the brotherhood's false sense of equality. This means the link can also signify IM's unknown acceptance of the false power he is being given by the brotherhood. Either way the link is interoperated though, it signifies power. If looked at as a reminder of escaping imprisonment and an entrance into a world of equality, then the link reveals the current, and soon to grow power of blacks, clearly depicting how they can in fact cut through the chains which whites have bound them with. On the other hand, if the link represents a facade of power and equality for blacks, but actual depicts how white people have tricked blacks into thinking they have power, then it reveals the ongoing power of white society.

This second representation of the link also fits very nicely into the idea of Bledsoe's shackle. It represented basically the same thing as the link, that whites have ultimate control and most blacks are simply being fed the deception that they in fact have control. A further claim could be that Tarp symbolizes a link, the average black man who buys into the whites' system, and Bledsoe symbolizes the shackle at the end of many links, the authority who feeds those men the false reality.

Entry 2: Chapter 19

The power of words comes to life again in this chapter as the Invisible Man is confronted by other points of view on his speeches and potential power when he is placed between an unnamed women’s desire and contempt as well as in his meeting with the Brotherhood. The temptress promotes this motion of his influence on others, allowing him to realize the possibilities. When the woman refers to Invisible Man’s voice as powerful, raw and “primitive”, she is drawn to him by the influence of his speeches (413). Though she insults him through what she believes to be complements, there is truth in the fact that his speeches “[take] hold of one’s emotions as well as one’s intellect” and contain “so much naked power that it goes straight through one” (413). Invisible Man’s power is his craft with words. However the audience also has power over the speaker, “Its response helps [IM] do [his] best” (413). On another note, at the meeting the day after his affair with the married nameless women, Invisible Man begins to buy into the Brotherhood’s system. Not only does he gain their same “stiff, noncommittal” facial expression, but he strategies on how to keep the power they have given him and to stay in the white leaders good graces (419). He is performing, “act[ing] out a pantomime more eloquent than [his] most expressive words” to maintain his power and influence over the crowds as well as the Brotherhood (420). Invisible Man is avoiding and not being true to himself to retain his power. The narrator is also giving up his individual/personal critical thought; to “ease [his] mind”, Invisible Man does not question the Brotherhood’s motives for employing him, nor the crowds’ reasons for listening to him (420). Invisible Man is spiraling towards many choices and changes as he returns to the Harlem district.

Entry 3: Chapters 20 and 22

In chapter 20 the power of black stereotypes is made very clear when Clifton sells the Sambo dolls on the street. In the Brotherhood, Clifton had power in enacting to destroy the black stereotypes present in the community, but with little effect (as also shown by the brotherhood's ultimate failure in Harlem). However, Clifton makes quick success when he backs up the black stereotype by marketing an obviously racist doll and also conforming to, or at least exhibiting some stereotypical 'black' actions. "It was Clifton, riding easily back and forth in his knees, flexing his legs without shifting his feet, his right shoulder raised at an angle and his arm pointing stiffly at the bouncing doll as he spieled from the corner of his mouth" (433). Here Clifton is totally enacting the black stereotype, and he is getting much more attention then he did when he was in the brotherhood and trying to go against this stereotype. From this attention he gains a certain power, or at least more power then he had while in the brotherhood. He is able to captivate the entire crowd and they follow him when he says "Follow little Sambo around the corner, ladies and gentlemen. There's a great show coming up…" (434). In this scene, Clifton as a black stereotype has much more influence than Clifton as a black man trying to go against the stereotype. In chapters 21 and 21, if becomes obvious that Clifton has the most power when he is dead. Even though Clifton died while conforming to the black stereotype, his death was able to rally way more people than the Sambo dolls. "He attracted half of Harlem to come out and stand in the sun" is what IM said to justify his point when arguing with Brother Jack (467).

During the argument between brother Jack and IM in chapter 22, the power of the Brotherhood committee is made clear, and a connection can also be made back to the phallic symbol in Frederick Douglass' narrative. While IM does his best to battle his point with Brother Jack and Tobitt about his "personal responsibility" that he fulfilled in giving the speech in honor of Clifton's death, the Brotherhood's power is impressed upon him (463). However, it isnt the the individual Brothers who create this power, it is the dominance of the "committee" and their absolute rule over the motives and means of action within the organization. Brother jack says to IM, "you were not hired to think. Had you forgotten that? If so, listen to me: you were not hired to think" (469). IM's own sense of power is again threatened here because IM now realizes he has no real say in the Brotherhood, he is only a pawn. More importantly though, IM realizes he never had any power, because Brother Jack asked "had you forgotten that?", which suggests that he never was supposed to think. This moment connects back to the moment when IM realized that Bledsoe had lied to him about the letters. IM had been walking around Harlem for weeks, hopeful in his own potential because of the letters, and then he realizes he had been set up for failure, much in the way Brother Jack eludes to IM's role in the brotherhood and how it is basically insignificant when it comes to real decision making.

Entry 4: Chapter 23 and the first two pages of Chapter 24

As we, the readers, are introduced to Rinehart and the rising anger over Clifton’s death in Harlem, Invisible Man is clinging to his power of words and discovering the power of disguise. The influence of Invisible Man’s speech is spreading through Harlem, as even Ras the Exhorter is discussing the issue on a street corner. When Ras’s goons follow IM to beat him up, Invisible Man slips into a store and purchases dark green glasses and a wide brimmed hat. With this disguise he escapes the goons, but is mistaken repeatedly for Rinehart. The power in his costume, the “magic in it”, enables him to “[hide] right in front of their eyes” and to become invisible (485). Even Brother Maceo does not recognize him in this outfit. The power of this new perspective intrigues and irritates IM as he wonders, “what kind of man is Rinehart?” who has the ability to deceive so many different people (490). Out of the loop since he got back, IM does not know this seemingly eminent social figure, “Rine the runner and Rine the gambler and Rine the briber and Rine the lover and Rinehart the Reverend” (498). IM and the Brotherhood appear to be losing touch with the community and therefore losing their influence, while Rinehart emerges as “years ahead of [Invisible Man]” and completely “at home” in the neighborhood (498). A “grief glimpse of the possibilities posed by Rinehart’s multiple personalities” causes IM to begin trembling at the vastness of that potential power (499). The influence channeled by the masquerade could be harnessed as a “political instrument” (499). Invisible Man is also beginning to realize as he encounters all of these influential individuals (Rinehart is simply one example) that gaining power does not means that one must be a part of big history. When he reaches Hambro’s for his appointment, IM repeats that the Brotherhood’s “strength is going to hell” in the district he oversees and that he can feel “some deep change” occurring (501). Brother Hambro’s response is to disclose that the district will be sacrificed and “slow[ed] down” for the greater goal (503). Invisible Man understands this turn of events as a way to keep the African Americans running (reference to the letter from the dream on 33). The false power given to him and his community by the Brotherhood has been stripped away from him in this meeting as IM realizes what the members have been planning – “to take advantage of [the people] in their own interests” even if the Brotherhood “appear[s] as charlatans” (504-5). Invisible Man recognizes the same blindfold of false power has been placed over his eyes with the Brotherhood as it had been with Bledsoe, the letters of recommendation, and in other instances. The power has not been his and Invisible Man has just been used. He decides to utilize this “amorphous form” to his benefit and play the Brotherhood’s game against them. Invisible Man will swindle them with his newfound power of disguise and “do a Rinehart” (507). With that epiphany, IM accepts his past, all his experiences that make him who he is “rine and heart” (508). He tests his grandfather’s advice on power will attempt to destroy the Brotherhood from the inside. His invisibility inside the system will be his power and ability to overcome it. Thus Invisible Man launches into his plot whole-heartedly and molds to the Brotherhood’s wishes while deceiving them with words and disguises, his new source of power.

Entry 5: Chapters 24, 25, and Epilogue

By the end of the book, IM has figured out the truths about the main influences in his life. He finally understands the important difference between the individual and the ideologies, the latter striving to group many individuals under the control of one, and following the ambitions of only a few. He also comes full circle and realizes he has been the child upon which the veil was being more firmly secured. IM understands now that his entire life has been full of others tricking him into thinking he has power, when really he never even had power over himself, as his beliefs and aspirations were tied up in that authority which gave him that fake sense of power in the first place.

In chapter 25 after IM falls into the hole, encompassed by complete blackness, he begins burning the contents of his briefcase. Throughout the book IM collects artifacts which in some way or another are connected to a moment or idea which deprived him of his own power, and some of these items also remind him of the people who gave him false power. The image of the veil covering the black man’s eyes was from his college, and in his case IM has a diploma and the letters from Bledsoe (567). The diploma signifies the official seal of his acceptance of the education he received, which blinded him from the truth, like the veil. When he first got to New York, the letters from Bledsoe made IM feel important and powerful, but once he found out the truth about the letters that power was taken from him.

Other things in IM’s brief case include the slip of paper that has his brotherhood name on it, which obviously signifies his full commitment to the Brotherhood. However, this same piece of paper also allowed IM to figure out who the anonymous letter was from (568). The rest of the items in the case also relate back to either cases in which he was lied to, or ideas that impressed their power upon him. The burning of these items signifies his overcoming of their metaphorical weight, and once he has used the destruction of those things in order for him to make light (physically and figuratively) he uses this new power, the only real power he has ever possessed, in order to see what ideally needs to happen.

IM realizes that whenever people try to conform to an idea, or go along with group mentality, or are influenced by anyone, the outcome is always bad for that individual. When people conform to something, it raises the power of the authority of that group, and diminishes that of the one conforming. The Brotherhood is a great example of this because all the brothers are not necessarily strong individually, and its only “the committee” who has the real power. IM has spent his entire life trying to be like someone else or doing what he thinks will be viewed as the best, and all he has achieved is failure and disappointment. No matter what his initial goal is, it seems he always ends up with the opposite outcome, stripped of his power and left with nothing, only to travel down the same road again. If no one ever tried to conform to someone else’s idea, or at least not in masses, everyone would be left to create their own power, not depend on a disconnected source. IM says "Now I know men are different and that all life is divided and that only in division is there true health", he goes on to say "let man keep his many parts and you'll have no tyrant states", this means that large organizations like the Brotherhood cannot exist, because men are different and forcing upon them the same ideals wont be "healthy" and would create "tyrant"s who would disrupt peoples' personal power, just as what happened to IM (576-7). This is ultimately what IM realizes, the reason he has gained no real power is because he has been depending on others. Now though, he knows he has to use his own opinions and will. He says "so after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man. Thus I have come a long way and returned and boomeranged a long way from the point in society toward which I originally aspired" (573).

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