Invisible Man

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Mr. Norton Character Analysis

Mr. Norton is a white trustee of the college from Boston. Norton believes that though his donations he understands the black community, but in reality he is clueless, a fact that is exposed by his experience with Trueblood and at the Golden Day. He is obsessed with his “destiny,” believing that he is responsible for the fate of young black men like the narrator. Mr. Norton also has a strange obsession with his daughter, a facet of his personality that is revealed when listens to Trueblood’s story with a little too much excitement.

Mr. Norton Quotes in Invisible Man

The Invisible Man quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Norton or refer to Mr. Norton. 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 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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Mr. Norton Character Timeline in Invisible Man

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Norton appears in Invisible Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...narrator remembers chauffeuring for one of these millionaires in his junior year, a man named Mr. Norton . He is an old and aristocratic man from Boston, one of the college’s original... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Mr. Norton recounts the early days of the college, telling the narrator that he only helped assist... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
The narrator asks Mr. Norton why he became interested in the school. Mr. Norton tells him that he feels connected... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Mr. Norton then explains a second reason, telling the narrator that he once had a daughter. He... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Mr. Norton tells the narrator “you are my fate.” He asks the narrator to promise to tell... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
The narrator drives the car into an unfamiliar territory near campus. Mr. Norton admits not recognizing the area, which is mostly populated by poor shacks. At Mr. Norton’s... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
The narrator tells Mr. Norton that the cabin is from “slavery times,” which confuses and disturbs Mr. Norton. Outside the... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Mr. Norton is stunned by this information, and asks repeatedly if the story is true. The narrator... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Mr. Norton asks Trueblood if the story of his deed is true and remarks, “You did and... (full context)
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
...and needs to see the event through. The narrator tries to interrupt the story, but Mr. Norton silences him. (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
After hearing Trueblood’s story, Mr. Norton has become completely pale. The narrator asks if Mr. Norton is all right and convinces... (full context)
Chapter 3
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
As the narrator drives Mr. Norton to the nearest bar, he recognizes a group of veterans from the nearby insane asylum.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
A weak Mr. Norton asks again for a stimulant, and asks who the man who stopped them was. The... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
The narrator leaves Mr. Norton in the car and rushes into the Golden Day to buy whiskey. The bar is... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...“schoolboy” narrator, telling him that everyone has to drink inside. The narrator tells Halley that Mr. Norton is sick and can’t come in, but Halley still refuses. (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
The narrator begins to return to Mr. Norton , anxious about bringing him into the increasingly rowdy bar. The patients’ attendant is nowhere... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
...help him. While the patients help the narrator they banter amusingly, as one claims that Mr. Norton is Thomas Jefferson and that he is his grandson. Mr. Norton is brought into the... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Halley gives the narrator a bottle of brandy, and the narrator feeds the alcohol to Mr. Norton . Mr. Norton revives, asks where he is, and is told that he is in... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...should leave, as the patients have lost control. The narrator agrees, but he has lost Mr. Norton . After searching, he finds Mr. Norton under the stairs, passed out again. He has... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
The patient helps the narrator take Mr. Norton up to the balcony. Three girls from upstairs help them and give Mr. Norton a... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
When the narrator returns with ice, the ex-doctor tells him that Mr. Norton will be all right. Mr. Norton revives and the narrator is sent to fetch a... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The narrator asks Mr. Norton if he would like to return to the campus now, but Mr. Norton insists on... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...three men to be happy, and that she will send them drinks. The ex-doctor tells Mr. Norton that he’s blushing, meaning that he must be feeling better. The narrator is amazed at... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
The narrator again says that it’s time to go. The ex-doctor tells Mr. Norton that the narrator doesn’t understand his story, and calls him “invisible.” The ex-doctor next questions... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
The narrator and Mr. Norton try to escape from the bar, which is still occupied by the rowdy mental patients.... (full context)
Chapter 4
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
As the narrator drives Mr. Norton back to the campus, he is filled with fear. He wonders if Mr. Norton is... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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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.... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
As the narrator leaves Mr. Norton’s quarters, he runs into a girl who asks him to take a message to her... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...and tells him that Dr. Bledsoe wishes to see him now in Rabb Hall, where Mr. Norton is staying. (full context)
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Ambition and Disillusionment 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... (full context)
Chapter 5
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...that Bledsoe is able to touch white men, and recalls his own close encounter with Mr. Norton . Bledsoe’s ease looks like an act of magic. To the students, Bledsoe is even... (full context)
Chapter 6
Race and Racism 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”... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...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!”... (full context)
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Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
The ex-doctor asks after Mr. Norton , and also asks the narrator if school is already out. The narrator tells him... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...D.C. After many months of attempting to transfer, he is sure that his conversation with Mr. Norton has something to do with it. (full context)
Chapter 8
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The narrator thinks of Mr. Norton , wishing he could see him again. To the narrator it seems like a great... (full context)
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Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...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 narrator is beginning... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
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Unexpectedly, the narrator asks the director if he knows Mr. Norton . The director tries to ignore the question, but the narrator asks him again. The... (full context)
Chapter 23
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...in a ballot box to be counted. The narrator feels that he has simply exchanged Mr. Norton for Brother Jack without making any progress whatsoever. (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
...vision of himself as 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... (full context)
Epilogue
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
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...gentleman on the subway platform. When he approached, it turned out that the man was Mr. Norton . The narrator asks Mr. Norton if Mr. Norton recognizes him. Mr. Norton does not... (full context)