Order, jazz, and chaos in Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man"
Ponzo, James Edward, II
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Throughout his lifetime, Ralph Ellison successfully articulated the issues of his generation. Whether expressing these ideas through book reviews, discussions, lectures, short stories, or novels, he shared his unfiltered opinion on a multitude of topics. Many of Ellison’s views, as well as symbolic depictions of historical figures and events, were included in the storyline of his literary masterpiece Invisible Man . Although scholarship on this literary work is extensive to say the least, I believe that there are certain aspects which have yet to elicit serious consideration. One such area of inquiry deals with the psychological nature of Ellison’s work. Specifically, I theorize that the ideas and beliefs that he disseminated in the Invisible Man and other works were directly influenced by his convictions, experiences, and events of his personal narrative which caused him to consider their psychological significance. My research consisted of looking at a variety of sources including several of his published works of fiction and non-fiction, correspondence, related literary criticism, and biographical material. As a result, this thesis will focus on three major themes that are related to this pursuit, which I believe he included and expounded upon in his discourses which are: 1) Order: Literary, social, and scientific standards that were implemented in an attempt to maintain traditional hierarchies and prevent unwanted variations, 2) Chaos: Both inevitable and unforeseen circumstances which arise as a direct result of the structures chosen to maintain the status quo, and 3) Jazz (Improvisation): Actions which are taken in an effort to not only survive, but to also succeed in the face of innumerable obstacles. By investigating these ideas, I believe it will enhance our understanding of Invisible ?iv Man, the psychological concepts that the author was attempting to disseminate, and ultimately, Ralph Ellison himself.