Invisible Man

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Ras the Exhorter Character Analysis

Ras the Exhorter is a West Indian man whose background is never explained. A black nationalist, Ras believes that the black race should band together to form their own nation, separate from the interests of other races. He opposes cooperation between whites and blacks on principle, and opposes the Brotherhood due to its multiracial membership. As the novel progresses, Ras’ exhortations rise in pitch and intensity, and Ras eventually declares himself “Ras the Destroyer” by the time of the Harlem riots, donning African gear and jousting the police force.

Ras the Exhorter Quotes in Invisible Man

The Invisible Man quotes below are all either spoken by Ras the Exhorter or refer to Ras the Exhorter. 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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Ras the Exhorter Character Timeline in Invisible Man

The timeline below shows where the character Ras the Exhorter appears in Invisible Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
...but lets him go. The music becomes thunderously loud, and the narrator thinks he hears Ras the Exhorter before coming out of the dream. (full context)
Chapter 7
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...the narrator hears passionate words being spoken, and is attracted toward a crowd. He discovers Ras the Exhorter (though he does not yet know his name) making a shrill speech about... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...of Men’s House, where the narrator will rent a room. Behind him, the voice of Ras seems to become more violent. (full context)
Chapter 17
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...that he had to see the doctor. Clifton has been injured in a clash with Ras the Exhorter’s men. Jack describes Ras as a “black nationalist” and tells Clifton to take... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
The narrator recalls that he saw Ras the Exhorter when he first came to Harlem, only that he didn’t yet know his... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...listen to his speech. As the narrator speaks, Clifton catches his eye, pointing out that Ras the Exhorter and his men have begun to infiltrate the crowd. A fight breaks out,... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
In the chaos of the fight, streetlights are broken. Ras’ men and the Brotherhood fight in darkness. The narrator beats off an attacker. In the... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ras tells Clifton that he shouldn’t work with whites, stating that they will only betray him... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ras continues his exhortation, but the narrator tells him that the Brotherhood will still be out... (full context)
Chapter 19
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...he does not. He is told that Clifton has “failed in his assignment,” and that Ras the Exhorter is gaining influence in Harlem. The narrator is instructed to return to the... (full context)
Chapter 23
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
The narrator comes across Ras the Exhorter giving a speech on the street. Ras points out the narrator and indicates... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
As the narrator leaves Ras’ circle, two of Ras’ men follow him down the street. They grab the narrator near... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...about Rinehart if people are going to be mistaken so often. The narrator comes across Ras’ crowd again. In his disguise, no one recognizes the narrator as a member of the... (full context)
Chapter 25
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...is amazed that Clifton’s death has caused so much destruction. Another man tells them that Ras the Destroyer caused the riot. (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...him by his Brotherhood name. Another voice calls out to catch the narrator, indicating that Ras the Destroyer is looking for him. The narrator disappears into the crowd. He wonders why... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ras the Destroyer is riding through the streets of Harlem at the head of his gang.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ras’ men spot the narrator, and Ras throws his spear at him, which misses and lodges... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Ras shouts again to hang the narrator, and the narrator realizes that if he is hanged... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Ras’ men chase after the narrator and struggle with him, but the narrator breaks free and... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
...a group of men talking about the wild evening. One describes the eventual encounter between Ras and the police force, with Ras charging the police on his horse. The man recounts... (full context)
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
...He has a 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... (full context)