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Free Study Guide-Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Ellison-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 4

Summary

The narrator drops Mr. Norton off on campus after a drive filled with profuse worries and fears about what he has allowed to happen. The narrator tries to apologize to Mr. Norton, but is merely told to send for the school nurse and Dr. Bledsoe. As he goes to get Dr. Bledsoe, he worries about losing the one identity he has as a student at the school. He tells Dr. Bledsoe that he took Mr. Norton to the old slave quarters because Mr. Norton requested it. Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator that he was responsible for the incident, not Mr. Norton.

When they arrive at Mr. Norton's room, Dr. Bledsoe tells Mr. Norton that the student driver, the narrator, will be reprimanded. The narrator defends himself, and Norton says he will tell Dr. Bledsoe the whole story. He confirms that the narrator is not responsible for the day's trouble. The narrator is asked to leave the two men alone. He returns to his room to worry about what will happen to him. Finally, he is sent for. When he arrives at the room, he finds Mr. Norton waiting alone. The benefactor reassures the narrator that he told Dr. Bledsoe nothing was his fault and that he should meet Dr. Bledsoe after Chapel. The narrator is relieved and heads for the Chapel.


Notes

The young narrator is very worried about losing his identity as a student at the Negro college. It is almost too frightening for him to imagine; he thinks about begging and pleading with humble tears to prove himself worthy of remaining. He does not even seem to realize the irony of the fact that the identity the school has given him is the only one he has for them to take away.

Even while he is worrying about the loss of this identity, another crisis threatens him. Dr. Bledsoe has been an inspiration to him; now, Dr. Bledsoe has attacked him and accused him and all blacks of manipulating white men. Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator that blacks should show the white man only what they want him to see, acting as a filter. Dr. Bledsoe's hypocrisy is even clearer when he approaches Mr. Norton with a stance of sincerity and humility that is in complete contrast to what he has told the narrator.

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