By Ralph Ellison
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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison ranked # 19 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
Invisible Man is a novel written by Ralph Ellison. The protagonist is an African-American man who is socially invisible. It was Ellison's only novel to be published during his lifetime, and won him the National Book Award in 1953.
The book addresses symbolically, through the experience of its narrator, broad social and intellectual debates in post-civil-war American Black culture, including, for example, those between marxism, black nationalism, and the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington.
Ellison's book is structured as the narrator's autobiography. The narrator - who is never named - is writing in order to make himself visible to
mainstream culture. In the Prologue, Ellison's narrator tells readers, "I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the
basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century."
In this secret place, the narrator creates surroundings that are
symbolically illuminated with 1,369 lights. He says, "My hole is warm and full of light. Yes, full of light. I doubt if there is a brighter spot in
all New York than this hole of mine, and I do not exclude Broadway." Further, the protagonist explains that light is an intellectual necessity for
him since "the truth is the light and light is the truth."
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