Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Historical and Cultural Context

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man paints a vivid picture of America between the 1930s and 1950s. During this period, the country was grappling with the Great Depression, which left many in financial distress. Moreover, despite the abolition of slavery, racial discrimination was still rampant, casting a shadow over the lives of black Americans.

Harlem, a buzzing cultural hub, was witnessing the Harlem Renaissance. This was a time when black artists, musicians, and writers were showcasing their talents and celebrating their unique culture. However, beneath the surface, many black individuals felt torn. They felt a duality in their identity – being both American and black.

In the literary landscape, there was a shift towards experimental storytelling, known as the Modernist Movement. Additionally, narratives centred around the black experience in America were gaining prominence and resonating with a broader audience.

Outside the realm of literature, society was stirring. The seeds of the Civil Rights Movement were being sown, with people advocating for equality regardless of race. Cities were growing rapidly too, becoming melting pots of diverse cultures and experiences, making it a time of change and introspection.

1. When was Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man set?

A) 1960s-1980s

B) 1930s-1950s

C) 1900s-1920s

D) 1980s-2000s

2. What was the Great Depression?

A) A famous book

B) A big party in America

C) A time when many people had little money

D) A dance style

3. What was happening in Harlem around the time of Invisible Man?

A) Harlem Shake Dance

B) Harlem Renaissance

C) Harlem Food Festival

D) Harlem Sports League

4. What did many black people feel torn between during this period?

A) Two jobs

B) Two cities

C) Being American and being rich

D) Being American and being black

DISCUSSION:  How do you think someone might feel if they believe the world around them doesn't really 'see' or understand them, just like the 'Invisible Man' in Ralph Ellison's novel?  

Further reading