THE (IN)VISIBLE MAN: Ralph Ellison

GREAT PEN WIELDERS

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THE (IN)VISIBLE MAN: Ralph Ellison

I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
- Ralph Ellison

 

The World of Ralph Ellison in 10 questions.

1. Who was Ralph Ellison and how did his work impact/influence the world we are living in now?

Ralph Ellison was an American novelist, literary critic, and scholar.

He believed in the philosophy of transcendentalism, asserting that individuals create their own reality and that reality is essentially mental or spiritual in nature.

The INVISIBLE MAN, SHADOW AND ACT and GOING TO THE TERRITORY transformed people’s thinking about race, identity and what it means to be American. Ellison works’ accelerated America’s literary project and helped define and clarify arguments about race in the country.

2. What are his famous works that you should know about?


Invisible Man - the story of an alienated and isolated black man living in racially repressive urban America,  was the first novel by a black author to win the National Book Award for Fiction.

 


Shadow & Act - A collection of essays that draws on different aspects of the way African American and Caucasian American culture intersect based on his personal anecdotes and his experience of being an African American.

3. What was his aspiration and inspiration?

Ellison did not intent to become a writer. He enrolled into Tuskegee Institute as a trumpeter with hopes of becoming a symphony composer.

His works was inspired by poet T.S. Eliot and Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground.


Shadow & Act - A collection of essays that draws on different aspects of the way African American and Caucasian American culture intersect based on his personal anecdotes and his experience of being an African American.

4. Who was inspired by his works?

The universality and accomplishment of Ellison’s writing can be seen in the breadth of his continuing influence on other writers, from Toni Morrison and Charles Johnson to Kurt Vonnegut and the late Joseph Heller. Barack Obama modeled his memoir, Dreams from My Father, published in 1995, on Invisible Man.


Richard Wright

5. How did he start writing?

He joined the New York Federal Writers program in which he was mentored by Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, who led Ellison in the direction of writing and inspire Ellison to write for him.

6. Besides being known for a writer, what else was he interested in or famous for?

He was also a musician, educator, and a World War II Veteran, where he served as a Merchant Marine cook for 2 years.

"I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me."
- Ralph Ellison

 

7. What were some of the interesting quirks surrounding Ralph Ellison?

    One of the anecdotes from Ellison's early life concerns his name. His father decided to call his son Ralph Waldo in honor of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American philosopher-poet. Adults would often refer him as Ralph Waldo Emerson instead of Ralph Waldo Ellison.

    Ralph Ellison monument in front of 730 Riverside Drive

     

    8. What are the monuments/ establishments that were built in his honour?

    A library named after Ellison was built in his hometime Oklahoma City in his hometown and a monument in front of 730 Riverside Drive.

    9. How did critics react to his work?

    Black critics were less impressed with Invisible Man than white critics.

    "Nothing ever stops; it divides and multiplies, and I guess sometimes it gets ground down superfine, but it doesn't just blow away."
    - Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth

     

    10. What other works did he author that few people knew about?

    His second novel, which he worked for forty years, was unfinished. His literary executor and friend, John Callahan, put together the manuscript after his death and the novel was published as Juneteenth in 1999.

     

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    GREAT PEN WIELDERS is a monthly series that sets out to celebrate amazing writers, authors, novelists and illustrators whose beliefs, passions and talents inspired and changed the world we live in today. We believe that their stories and life experiences will foster Gnome & Bow’s vision to inspire storytelling without boundaries.