Invisible Man

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Invisible Man Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As the narrator drives Mr. Norton back to the campus, he is filled with fear. He wonders if Mr. Norton is angry with him, and what people at home will think if he’s expelled. In his head he blames Trueblood for making Mr. Norton sit in the sun so long, which forced him to take Mr. Norton to the Golden Day.
After the day’s long detour, the narrator is far more worried by Mr. Norton’s displeasure than he is by the genuinely disturbing things that he has seen. He tries to blame Trueblood instead of himself, though he is the only one with something to lose.
Themes
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The once familiar and beautiful campus seems to threaten the narrator. The narrator imagines himself apologizing to Mr. Norton, assuring him that he’s not like Trueblood or the clientele of the Golden Day. They stop at Mr. Norton’s rooms and Mr. Norton asks for Dr. Bledsoe, the school president. The narrator tries to apologize to Mr. Norton, but Mr. Norton is impassive.
The college only seemed perfectly beautiful to the narrator as long as it was the scene of his advancement. Facing expulsion, it seems far more threatening. The narrator apologizes to Mr. Norton in order to claim that he isn’t part of the culture Mr. Norton saw through the day.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Walking to Dr. Bledsoe’s office, the narrator reflects that Bledsoe is everything he wishes to become: successful, well off, and respected by whites. When the narrator reaches Dr. Bledsoe, Bledsoe immediately knows that something has happened. The narrator stammers a brief summary of the car trip, and Dr. Bledsoe becomes furious. Dr. Bledsoe says that he thought the narrator was smart enough not to let Mr. Norton do what he wanted. He tells the narrator that he only shows whites what he wants them to see.
Dr. Bledsoe’s cynical words shock the narrator, who has taken everything he has learned at college so far at face value. It was unthinkable to the narrator that he might have influenced Mr. Norton or guided him to stay away from Trueblood—to do anything but do as Norton asked. The narrator can no longer assume that Dr. Bledsoe’s message represents simply humbleness and cooperation with whites.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Dr. Bledsoe rushes to Mr. Norton’s quarters with the narrator behind him. Dr. Bledsoe, after composing himself, apologizes profusely to Mr. Norton. Dr. Bledsoe blames the narrator for his carelessness, but Mr. Norton is gracious and says the incident was not the narrator’s fault. Mr. Norton says he will explain everything, and sends the narrator away. Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator to be at chapel in the evening.
Dr. Bledsoe’s behavior in front of Mr. Norton is a sharp contrast with his earlier anger at the narrator. It is clear that Bledsoe presents one face to white men and another to his black students. Mr. Norton says that he will explain, but it is doubtful that he has really understood the day’s experience.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
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As the narrator leaves Mr. Norton’s quarters, he runs into a girl who asks him to take a message to her boyfriend. The narrator assumes the message is to arrange a tryst. He imagines the girl sent home pregnant “in less disgrace than I.” Filled with anxiety, the narrator returns to his dorm room, unable to understand Dr. Bledsoe’s un-humble words.
For the narrator, the girl’s message is a painful reminder of the rhythms of college life. The narrator realizes that he will no longer to be able to stay within the college’s atmosphere of innocence.
Themes
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
In the narrator’s room, his roommate teases him and heads off to dinner. A small student appears and tells him that Dr. Bledsoe wishes to see him now in Rabb Hall, where Mr. Norton is staying.
The narrator’s roommate is another example of the familiar, comfortable environment that the narrator will soon be leaving.
Themes
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
The narrator knocks and enters Mr. Norton’s room. Mr. Norton greets him, telling him that Dr. Bledsoe had to leave, and to see him in his office after chapel. Mr. Norton reassures the narrator that he was not at fault, and that he has explained this to Bledsoe. The narrator promises again to try to tell Mr. Norton his fate. The narrator leaves for chapel, somewhat uplifted by Mr. Norton’s kind words.
The narrator is temporarily relieved by Mr. Norton’s assurance. However, the narrator forgets the way in which Dr. Bledsoe easily disregarded Mr. Norton’s desires when they spoke earlier. The narrator still believes completely in the wisdom of Dr. Bledsoe.
Themes
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon