Invisible Man

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Invisible Man Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As the narrator prepares his undermining of the Brotherhood, Harlem has become inflamed with violence. The narrator hears that clashes are breaking out throughout the neighborhood. Despite his wish to destroy the Brotherhood, the narrator admits that things in Harlem look very bad.
The narrator is aware of Harlem’s deteriorating state, but tells himself that it is necessary to ignore it in order to destroy the Brotherhood. In doing so, the narrator justifies violence in a way that is not normal for him.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The narrator lies to the committee, reporting that conflict in Harlem is dying down and that the narrator plans to organize a clean up campaign. The narrator barely believes the credibility of the lie, but the committee loves the plan. He also shows the committee a roll of made-up new members. The narrator believes that his goal is to allow the Brotherhood to ignore the reality on the ground; he will say whatever the committee wants to hear.
Initially, the narrator’s attempt to “yes” the Brotherhood to death seems successful. In lying to the committee, the narrator is taking full advantage of his invisibility. The committee does not recognize who he is, so he decides to use his invisibility for covert action.
Themes
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
At the Chthonian, Brother Jack’s birthday is celebrated. The narrator tries to approach Emma, but something in her demeanor warns the narrator away. He realizes that she is too politically canny to let herself be sexually manipulated. The narrator looks around the party for a second choice.
The narrator’s “Rinehart-style” plan proves to be more difficult to execute than he imagined. The narrator has no notable experience in seduction, and his plan soon grows increasingly desperate.
Themes
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The narrator spies a woman named Sybil, a woman who had previously approached the narrator during his lecture series. The narrator had never taken up her innuendo before, but now sees his opportunity. He knows that Sybil is the unhappy wife of one the Brotherhood’s most prominent members. The plan goes smoothly, and the narrator arranges for Sybil to meet him at his apartment the following evening.
The narrator succeeds in preparing Sybil for a seduction. The narrator hopes to extract important information from Sybil, but he also risks degrading himself—and using her, another person, another individual—without knowing for certain that Sybil will be useful to him.
Themes
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
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The narrator spends the day preparing his apartment for Sybil’s visit, buying alcohol, food, and flowers for the rendezvous. He tries to imagine what Rinehart would do in the situation. However, the narrator quickly admits that he “bungled” the situation. He mixes the drinks too strongly, and he and Sybil both quickly become drunk. In addition, Sybil is totally uninterested in politics and has nothing interesting to tell the narrator. As the narrator tries to talk to Sybil, she can only treat him as the image of a black man, asking him to perform certain black stereotypes.
The narrator does not quite have Rinehart’s experience in exploiting possible opportunities. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Sybil is also using him, treating the narrator like a sex object, demanding that he fill stereotypical roles for her pleasure. The situation is risky, as the narrator is sacrificing part of his dignity, becoming invisible again all for an unfulfilling reward.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
As Sybil and the narrator get drunker, Sybil tells the narrator that she has a particular fantasy. She asks the narrator to pretend to rape her. The narrator tries to discourage her from this idea, telling her that they should go for a walk instead. However, Sybil insists. She recalls that a black man raped a friend of hers, and Sybil elevates the anecdote into a sexual fantasy. She confesses to the narrator that she thinks she might be a nymphomaniac.
Sybil’s desire to be raped by the narrator is the fullest expression of racist desires encoded in the heart of their interaction. The narrator is debased as well by agreeing to participate in the obscene ritual, selling himself for information that Sybil doesn’t even have. The moment is indicative of the narrator’s own loss of direction.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
The narrator begins to feel pity for Sybil’s sad fantasy. Sybil grows increasingly insistent that the narrator should pretend to rape her. The narrator continues to give Sybil drinks, hoping that she will pass out. The narrator writes an obscene message across Sybil’s belly with her lipstick, but soon regrets doing so. He uses benzene to wipe the message off. Sybil eventually passes out.
Now that the narrator has embroiled himself in the situation, he cannot figure a way to get himself out. The narrator’s decision to seduce Sybil is a move for power that has gone horribly awry, revealing how little power the narrator really has against the Brotherhood.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
When Sybil wakes, the narrator lies and tells her that he performed the rape fantasy. Sybil, still drunk, believes him and becomes overjoyed. The narrator plays along, feeling sorry for Sybil. Sybil asks if they can do it again sometime, and the narrator facetiously replies that they can do it every Thursday at 9pm. As Sybil curls up in his arms, the narrator feels ashamed of himself.
By indulging Sybil’s rape fantasy, the narrator acts in a cowardly manner. This is one the narrator’s deepest points of disillusionment, as his plan to disrupt the Brotherhood has been thoroughly overturned, resulting in a grotesque situation that is out of the narrator’s control.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The narrator dozes off, only to be awoken by a telephone call. Sybil tells him not to answer, but the narrator picks up the phone. A member of the Brotherhood tells the narrator to get up to Harlem immediately. The man on the phone says that there is “Bad trouble,” and the narrator hears the sound of glass breaking over the phone. The narrator briefly wonders if the call is a trick, or if it concerns his tryst with Sybil, but he quickly resolves to go uptown.
It was already known that the situation in Harlem was beginning to deteriorate. The narrator’s escapade with Sybil was a type of distraction from the important events going on behind the narrator’s back. The narrator had lost himself, but the news of Harlem’s trouble rouses him back into action.
Themes
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
As the narrator prepares to go uptown, the drunken Sybil tries to convince him to stay. The narrator packs his brief case, noticing that the contents have become quite heavy. The narrator takes Sybil out to the street and tells her stay put while he catches a cab on Fifth Avenue. Sybil calls the narrator “boo’ful” over and over, and the narrator muses that that’s the sound of “true affection.” Sybil’s “boo’ful” also makes the narrator feel invisible.
As the narrator prepares to return to Harlem, Sybil represents the possibility of abdication: the narrator doesn’t owe the Brotherhood anything, and he could easily continue his dalliance with Sybil, imagining it to be the resistance that it surely isn’t. However, the narrator rejects Sybil, accepting the reality of Harlem.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
As the narrator heads uptown, a taxi pulls up—with Sybil inside. She asks the narrator to take her up to Harlem with him. Instead, the narrator gives the taxi driver five dollars to drive Sybil home. The narrator is relieved to have gotten rid of Sybil, only to run into her again on 110th Street, waiting for him under a street lamp. Sybil begins to run barefoot up the street, asking the narrator to catch her. She eventually falls over, still drunk. The narrator hails another taxi and sends Sybil home again. The taxi driver tells the narrator that the situation in Harlem is very bad indeed.
Despite his desire to shake off Sybil and return back into political life, Sybil is very persistent. Her repeated return seems like a joke similar to the disposal of the coin bank. No matter what the narrator does, the strange sexual tension of white women returns to haunt the narrator. However, the narrator must cast off the question of Sybil in order to return to Harlem.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
The narrator realizes that he himself is still drunk. He hurries up toward Harlem. The narrator recalls his first time entering Harlem, which now seems long ago. Feeling a strong sense of expectation, the narrator crosses under the bridge on 125th Street and finally enters Harlem again.
In returning to Harlem alone, the narrator has the feeling that he is crossing an important threshold. He is entering a place that has deeply shaped his identity, only to find that the situation has changed once again.
Themes
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon