Invisible Man

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Invisible Man Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator watches the other students returning from chapel to their dorms, talking about Barbee’s speech. He enters the building that contains Dr. Bledsoe’s office, but panics and rushes back out into the night. He follows a group of boys to distract himself, but when he finds himself at the college’s gate, he turns back. The narrator reaches Bledsoe’s office.
The feeling of shame and guilt is so great for the narrator that he can barely stand to face Dr. Bledsoe. He knows that the man who is everything he admires will judge him and find him unworthy. He wants to disappear, but doesn’t know any alternative than to take his punishment.
Themes
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
In Dr. Bledsoe’s office, Bledsoe begins softly. The narrator hopes that Mr. Norton has helped soften his punishment. Bledsoe recounts the day’s events, saying that it “wasn’t enough” to merely show Trueblood to Mr. Norton, but that he had to take him to the Golden Day as well.
Initially, the narrator has hopes that Dr. Bledsoe or Mr. Norton will recognize his good intentions, but it quickly becomes clear that Bledsoe is not interested in intentions.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Bledsoe criticizes the narrator for his stupidity, telling him that as the driver, he should have been in control of where the car was going. Bledsoe tells the narrator that he should have deceived Mr. Norton, saying, “the only way to please a white man is tell him a lie!” Bledsoe asks the narrator whose idea it was to go to the slave quarters, but the narrator insists that no one told him to drive there.
Dr. Bledsoe reveals his deeply cynical attitude toward donors like Mr. Norton. Mr. Norton only thinks he knows about the college, and Bledsoe insists that it is the narrator’s responsibility to fool Mr. Norton. Bledsoe suggests that he actually controls the white donors, and not vice-versa.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Bledsoe asks the narrator about the ex-doctor, and the narrator repeats part of his story, including his words that the narrator believes that “white is right.” Bledsoe says he will investigate the ex-doctor, saying that he should be “under lock and key.”
Bledsoe is very interested in the ex-doctor, as he represents the opposite of Bledsoe’s method. The ex-doctor is not afraid to tell white men what he thinks, despite the consequences.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
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Bledsoe tells the narrator that he has disgraced the college and the entire race. He says that the narrator must be punished for his actions, and that he plans to get rid of him. The narrator knows that Bledsoe promised Mr. Norton not to punish him, and he becomes outraged at Bledsoe’s decision to break his word. The narrator yells at Mr. Bledsoe, telling him that he’ll go to Mr. Norton and that he’ll fight.
Dr. Bledsoe’s decision to violate Mr. Norton’s wishes represents the ultimate rupture of the narrator’s sense of the world. For the narrator, it is a simple rule that a black man follows white orders. Bledsoe seems to be working against the very principles of the college he represents.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
At first Bledsoe seems enraged by the narrator’s show of disobedience, but he then becomes merely amused. He laughs at the narrator and tells him that he doesn’t even know the difference between “the way things are and the way they’re supposed to be.” Bledsoe tells the narrator to tell anyone he likes about the broken promise, but that it won’t matter. Bledsoe tells him that the only person who controls the school is Bledsoe himself.
Dr. Bledsoe gives the narrator a lesson on the difference between appearances and realities. The narrator has assumed the world is the same as it appears to, that Mr. Norton can influence Bledsoe and that there is due process against injustice. Bledsoe suggests that the reality is the power he has over the narrator to do what he wants.
Themes
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Bledsoe continues, telling the narrator that he is “nobody,” and that white men like Mr. Norton will only hear what they want to hear. Bledsoe tells the narrator that his power is the ability to tell white men what to think, at least in the subjects he knows. Bledsoe says that this is his position, and that he will do whatever is necessary to stay where he is.
Bledsoe has power, and his only objective is to maintain the power he has. For him, there is no more important principle. He lets the narrator know that the narrator has no power to exercise against him.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
After this, Bledsoe calls the narrator a “fighter,” and that he likes his spirit. He tells the narrator that instead of expelling him, he wants the narrator to go New York for the summer. Once there, he will work until he saves up next year’s tuition fees. Bledsoe says he will provide the narrator with letters of introduction to his business contacts in the city. Last, he tells the narrator he has two days to settle everything before he goes to New York.
It is not made exactly clear why Dr. Bledsoe sends the narrator to New York. In the moment, the narrator feels that Bledsoe is giving him a chance to earn back his good standing with the university. However, later it becomes apparent that Bledsoe’s decision has more to do with keeping the narrator from becoming troublesome to the college.
Themes
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
The narrator leaves Bledsoe’s office, barely able to walk after the news that he is to leave school. The day’s events float through his mind. The narrator feels like he did everything that was expected of him only to be rebuked. Still, he tries to convince himself that Bledsoe is right, and that he will work hard to return to school.
The narrator has tied his identity to the idea that he is a successful student. Now, partly expelled, the narrator feels the dislocation that comes from abruptly finding oneself living a new way of life. Still, he tries to reconcile himself to Bledsoe’s verdict.
Themes
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The next day, the narrator returns to Bledsoe’s office and tells him that he is already prepared to depart. He apologizes again, and Bledsoe warns him not to become bitter. The narrator is told to return to the office in a half hour, as time is needed to prepare his letters of recommendation. Bledsoe sternly warns the narrator not to open or read the letters. They say goodbye, and when the narrator returns, the letters are ready. The narrator hurries to the bus.
The narrator approaches Bledsoe one last time to assure Bledsoe of his commitment to the school. He decides to leave early to prove to Bledsoe that he is eager to follow orders. Bledsoe seems to reciprocate, having letters of recommendation written for the narrator, but these letters are also not what they seem and will turn out to have serious negative consequences for the narrator.
Themes
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon