Invisible Man

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Dr. Bledsoe Character Analysis

Dr. Bledsoe is the president of the all-black college that the narrator attends in his youth. The narrator is extremely impressed with Dr. Bledsoe for reaching the top of the black community, and Bledsoe is known far and wide as a statesman and educator. Outwardly subservient to whites, Bledsoe prides himself on being the black man who can tell white men what to think. Ultimately, Bledsoe is more concerned with holding onto his small enclave of power than anything else.

Dr. Bledsoe Quotes in Invisible Man

The Invisible Man quotes below are all either spoken by Dr. Bledsoe or refer to Dr. Bledsoe. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Invisible Man published in 1995.
Chapter 6 Quotes

The white folk tell everybody what to think—except men like me. I tell them; that’s my life, telling white folk how to think about the things I know about.

Related Characters: Dr. Bledsoe (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Dr. Bledsoe has scolded the narrator for taking Mr. Norton to the poor black neighborhood and to the Golden Day. When the narrator protests that he was just obeying Mr. Norton's wishes, Dr. Bledsoe exclaims that every black person should know that the only way to please white people is to lie. He goes on to rant about his own power, claiming that white people "tell everybody what to think" except men like himself, who tell white people how to think. This passage radically alters the narrator's understanding of Dr. Bledsoe. Unlike the narrator himself, who willingly obeys white people such as Mr. Norton, Dr. Bledsoe collaborates with white people in a strategic way, making it seem as though he is submitting to them when in fact he retains control by lying to them and manipulating them into thinking how he wants them to. 

Or at least, this is what Dr. Bledsoe claims. While it is certainly true that Dr. Bledsoe has been able to secure a degree of power for himself, over the course of the novel the narrator comes to view Dr. Bledsoe's claims about the extent of his influence over white people as somewhat delusional. Despite his statement about telling white people what to think, in reality Dr. Bledsoe must behave in an outwardly subservient way to white people in order to retain his position as president of the college, and thus remains "invisible" in the same way as the narrator and other black characters.

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Chapter 25 Quotes

I looked at Ras on his horse and at their handful of guns and recognized the absurdity of the whole night and of the simple yet confoundingly complex arrangement of hope and desire, fear and hate, that had brought me here still running, and knowing now who I was and where I was and knowing too that I had no longer to run for or from the Jacks and the Emersons and the Bledsoes and Nortons, but only from their confusion, impatience, and refusal to recognize the beautiful absurdity of their American identity and mine.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Dr. Bledsoe, Mr. Norton, Brother Jack, Ras the Exhorter, Young Emerson
Page Number: 559
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has found himself in the middle of a riot that's broken out in Harlem, and he has encountered Ras the Exhorter dressed as an Abyssinian chief, carrying a spear and riding a horse. Having recognized the narrator, Ras orders his men to hang him, ignoring the narrator's explanations that he is no longer part of the Brotherhood. Faced with the prospect of his imminent death, the narrator reflects on the bizarre, "simple yet confoundingly complex" situation in which he has ended up. The calm with which he confronts the prospect of death reveals a newfound sense of acceptance of the sinister and unpredictable nature of reality, and indicates that the narrator no longer wishes to control "history." 

This sense of freedom and acceptance is echoed in the narrator's admission that he no longer feels he has to run from "the Emersons and the Bledsoes and Nortons, but only from their confusion." The narrator's new level of wisdom and maturity is emphasized by the fact that he has given up hope of escaping power-hungry figures without succumbing to total disillusionment and despair. While almost everything he once believed about the world has been upended, he still believes in the importance of patience, wisdom, and compassion, and seems to have discovered a newfound appreciation for the "beautiful absurdity" of life in American society. 

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Dr. Bledsoe Character Timeline in Invisible Man

The timeline below shows where the character Dr. Bledsoe appears in Invisible Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Walking to Dr. Bledsoe’s office, the narrator reflects that Bledsoe is everything he wishes to become: successful, well off,... (full context)
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,... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...I.” Filled with anxiety, the narrator returns to his dorm room, unable to understand Dr. Bledsoe’s un-humble words. (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 5
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Up on stage, Dr. Bledsoe is attending to the gathered millionaire donors. The narrator notices that Bledsoe is able to... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...girl singing a cappella in the rafters. The black man on stage other than Dr. Bledsoe, later named as the Reverend Barbee, a fat and ugly man with black-lensed glasses, gets... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...holding the audience in rapture. He recalls a tour of several states, during which Dr. Bledsoe was present as well. The Founder was still spreading his message of freedom and cooperation.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...his deathbed on the train, and that with his last words the Founder told Dr. Bledsoe that he must “Lead them the rest of the way.” (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Barbee tells of the funeral and aftermath of the Founder’s passing. Dr. Bledsoe presided over the events, taking up the Founder’s mantle. The “sorrowful train” toured the Founder’s... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...speech. As he wipes his eyes, he hears a commotion. Barbee has tripped over Dr. Bledsoe’s legs, and two white trustees give him his cane. The narrator realizes for the first... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...service ends soon after, and the narrator realizes it is time to go see Dr. Bledsoe. He is sure Bledsoe will be unsympathetic after Barbee’s rousing sermon. (full context)
Chapter 6
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
In Dr. Bledsoe’s office, Bledsoe begins softly. The narrator hopes that Mr. Norton has helped soften his punishment.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Bledsoe criticizes the narrator for his stupidity, telling him that as the driver, he should have... (full context)
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... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Bledsoe tells the narrator that he has disgraced the college and the entire race. He says... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility 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... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Bledsoe continues, telling the narrator that he is “nobody,” and that white men like Mr. Norton... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
After this, Bledsoe calls the narrator a “fighter,” and that he likes his spirit. He tells the narrator... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The narrator leaves Bledsoe’s office, barely able to walk after the news that he is to leave school. The... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest 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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...celebrity with his knowledge of New York. He is excited about his letters from Dr. Bledsoe, and imagines himself acting sophisticated in his business meetings. (full context)
Chapter 8
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
...Bible. The Bible reminds the narrator of the home, and he thinks both of Dr. Bledsoe and his father’s attempt to establish family prayer. (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The narrator is proud of the letters from Dr. Bledsoe, and wishes he could show them to someone. He plans to look for a job... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...that he is part of a plan that he doesn’t understand. He imagines that Dr. Bledsoe and Mr. Norton are somehow behind his lack of success in finding a job. The... (full context)
Chapter 9
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
The narrator thinks about Dr. Bledsoe, noting that the students never know how he acts when he’s away from campus. He... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
When asked, the narrator tells young Emerson that his career goal is to become Dr. Bledsoe’s assistant. He asks the narrator how many letters of introduction he was given, to which... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...way, young Emerson opens the letter of introduction and lets the narrator read it. Dr. Bledsoe’s letter instructs Mr. Emerson to mislead the narrator, allowing him to hope that he will... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...everyone else seems to have one. At home, the narrator is filled with anger toward Bledsoe. He begins to laugh and plot his revenge, telling himself that this time he will... (full context)
Chapter 11
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...replies that he does not know him. The narrator jokes that Mr. Norton and Dr. Bledsoe are old friends of his. He is surprised by his new way of speaking to... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
In the lobby, the narrator hears a man holding forth whom he mistakes for Dr. Bledsoe. Instinctively, he empties a spittoon over the man’s head. The narrator immediately realizes that the... (full context)
Chapter 13
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...are ashamed of their own culture, even the things that they like. He imagines Dr. Bledsoe’s shame if the narrator were to accuse him of being a “chitterling eater.” He resolves... (full context)
Chapter 16
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...course and deciding that he’s not really sure what it means. He then thinks of Bledsoe and Norton, and laughs that their efforts have made him even more important and dangerous... (full context)
Chapter 25
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...a prisoner of all his past enemies, including Ras, Brother Jack, Mr. Norton, and Dr. Bledsoe. The narrator tells his captors that he is done running. The captors castrate the narrator... (full context)