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Free Study Guide-Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Ellison-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 5

Summary

The narrator walks to chapel with the other students, but he feels isolated from them; it is like he is guilty of some crime or great sin. In the chapel, he seats himself on a hard pew and waits for the ceremony, a ritual wherein rich white men are honored and praised for giving help to the black students. Dr. Bledsoe sits among the honored white men, commanding fear and admiration from all the students. Soon a black man walks to the podium, commanding the same reverence and attention as Dr. Bledsoe. The man, Reverend Homer A. Barbee, gives a sermon on the founder's life, comparing it to the life of each student present. The sermon makes the narrator feel ashamed for letting the events of the day get so far out of his control. He resents the reverend for making him feel so guilty. As the sermon closes and Reverend Barbee walks back to his seat, he falls. The narrator looks into the preacher's eyes and realizes that the man is blind. As the narrator leaves the chapel, he anticipates that Dr. Bledsoe will be merciless after hearing this sermon. He does not know what he will do if he has to leave the school.


Notes

Ellison uses another symbol of blindness; Reverend Barbee is a blind preacher who delivers an inspirational sermon. His "rags to riches" story of the founder has an idealized meant to energize everyone, especially the whites being honored. Ironically, it is a literal case of the blind leading the blind. After hearing the speech, the narrator begins to feel he is to blame for Mr. Norton's experiences that day. He worries that the will be kicked out of college for the events of the day.

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