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Free Study Guide-Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Ellison-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 22

Summary

Brother Jack calls the narrator to a meeting and grills him over the unauthorized funeral for Clifton. The narrator emphasizes the need to organize the people while they are still upset. The group accuses him of acting without permission, and he responds that he has acted out of personal responsibility. They mock him, claiming that Clifton was a traitor given the funeral of a hero. The narrator tries to explain that while Clifton may be defined as a traitor by the Brotherhood, he is not defined as such by the Harlem community. The narrator makes the statement that someone, somewhere always accuses others of being traitors. They make fun of the narrator for using the words "personal responsibility." The tension and anger in the room continue to escalate until Jack gets so frenzied that his glass eye pops out of its socket. The narrator feels it is a planned incident, designed to throw him off balance. Jack screams that he lost his eye in the line of duty, a lesson in self-sacrifice and discipline. The narrator thinks to himself that Jack's sacrifice has made him blind. He realizes once and for all that Jack does not see him.

Jack and the other men leave. The narrator makes a decision to leave the public eye, to forget about changing history in a public way. Once again he sees the Brotherhood more clearly, with less blindness.


Notes

The Brotherhood calls the narrator to headquarters to grill him about the unauthorized funeral for Clifton, whom they call a traitor. When he says he has acted out of "personal responsibility," they question his use of the phrase in a way that it is reminiscent of the earlier scene where he is told not to use the words "social equality". The leaders of the Brotherhood also begin to reveal a blatant philosophy toward the black community that is almost identical to that of Mr. Norton -- that the black community is not capable of deciding their own best interest, so someone (the white man) must help. It is no surprise that the narrator is beginning to feel so uncomfortable with the Brotherhood.

Blindness comes into play again in this chapter. Jack gets so worked up in the meeting that his glass eye pops out of the socket. In turn, he screams that he has lost his eye (gone blind) in the line of duty. The narrator realizes that Jack is blinded by the Brotherhood; ironically, this realization makes the narrator less blind and more in tune with reality.

The chapter is critical in its development of the escalating tension between the narrator and the world around him. It seems the community he has surrounded himself with is pressing in on him and turning its back on him. The resulting urgency he feels grows to an uncomfortable level, a climactic upward rise.

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