Topics and Ideas for Papers


1. Why do the men who are giving the narrator a scholarship put him through such an ordeal at the club?

2. Why does President Bledsoe give the narrator unfavorable letters of recommendation without telling him about the content? Why does Bledsoe consider the narrator dangerous?

3. Compare the narrator’s experience at the white men’s club with Norton’s at the Golden Day.

4. What is the symbolic significance of the narrator’s working in a paint factory?

5. Why does the narrator first adopt, then reject the persona of Rinehart? In what ways does Rinehart restrict his freedom?

6. Why does the narrator first decline to buy a yam from the street vendor, then buy a second one?


1. The narrator opens the book by saying that people refuse to see him. Analyze passages throughout the book that reinforce or refute this.

2. Some critics think there is an underlying Marxist philosophy at work in Invisible Man. Research Marxism and explain any parallels you see in Invisible Man.

3. Read Albert Camus’s short novel The Stranger and compare it to Invisible Man.

4. Research the philosophy of “existentialism” and discuss how it might have influenced Ellison’s views in the novel.

5. Research Ralph Waldo Emerson’s philosophy of “transcendentalism” and discuss how it influences the novel.

6. List the various identities or disguises the narrator takes on. What does he learn about his identity from each one?