Mark And Daniel On Discipline

The Theme of Discipline in Invisible Man.


Chapter Seventeen and Eighteen

The relation between Invisible Man and the Brotherhood becomes more clearly defined in chapter seventeen and eighteen. The enforced structure and discipline applied upon IM by the Brotherhood is pervasive in these chapters. IM is trained to be a disciplined “soldier” for the Brotherhood’s cause (360). IM even acknowledges that his life is “tightly organized” by the Brotherhood (357). He is indoctrinated and disciplined under Brother Hambro, in order to be an eloquent cog in the Brotherhood’s machine. Brother Jack reminds IM that he must never “underestimate the discipline” of the Brotherhood, and that’s its views and opinions are “strict” and not to be broken or altered (360). IM begins to be “dominated by the all-embracing idea of Brotherhood” and soon realizes that his life has become “all pattern and discipline” (382).

IM questions his invigoration towards to the Brotherhood when he receives an anonymous letter warning him to reduce his zealous efforts. Brother Tarp reassures him that he is very well liked within the Brotherhood. Brother Tarp also gives IM a chain link, a symbol of his” nineteen years on the chain gang” (392). Brother Wrestrum finds fault with the link. He warns IM not to “dramatize differences” between white and black cultural hegemony, and urges him to remove the link from his desk (392). Brother Wrestrum reinforces Brotherhood ideology and proclaims that “[they] have to discipline [them]selves” and calls membership in the Brotherhood a “privilege” (393). These remarks by Wrestrum highlight foreboding contradictions by the Brotherhood, as their seemingly socialist agenda seems to conflict with idea of privileged positions within society.

The word “discipline” continues to appear in these chapters, a constant reminder of the Brotherhood’s rigid expectations and demands. Wrestrum tells IM “to be disciplined in body and mind” (394). IM realizes he is “bending to discipline” exerted by the Brotherhood, and that the organization is shrouded with “secrets of power and authority” (407). Nevertheless, IM continues to be their spokesman, as personal ambitions overpower his disgust of their inflexible, disciplined agenda.

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