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The New TerritoryRalph Ellison and the Twenty-First Century$
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Marc C. Conner and Lucas E. Morel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496806796

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2018

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496806796.001.0001

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Invisible Man’s Grandfather and the American Dream

Invisible Man’s Grandfather and the American Dream

Chapter:
(p.260) Invisible Man’s Grandfather and the American Dream
Source:
The New Territory
Author(s):

Steven D. Ealy

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496806796.003.0012

Steven D. Ealy’s “Invisible Man’s Grandfather and the American Dream” examines the grandfather in Invisible Man, an enigmatic figure from whom the narrator learns despite his doubts about the wisdom of a former slave. Highlighting Invisible Man’s identification with a hibernating bear, Ealy examines what the narrator, or “Jack-the-Bear,” discovers about his grandfather’s deathbed advice. The grandfather offers Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington as key figures for the narrator’s instruction. The chief insight gained from his grandfather is what he calls “the principle on which the country was built.” By leaving this principle undefined, the narrator invites the reader to wrestle with the meaning of human equality in a world whose practice falls short of this ideal. Ealy spells out one implication by connecting “the principle” with the South African concept of ubuntu, where love becomes the means by which each person’s humanity is acknowledged in the public sphere.

Keywords:   Grandfather, Equality, Deathbed advice, Invisible Man, Ubuntu

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