Invisible Man

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Tod Clifton Character Analysis

Tod Clifton is a dedicated member of the Brotherhood chapter of Harlem and the leader of the chapter’s youth division. Early on, Clifton is the Brotherhood’s most tireless defender against the repeated attacks of Ras the Exhorter. However, when the Brotherhood’s policies shift, Clifton grows disillusioned and drops out of the Brotherhood. The narrator discovers him later selling Sambo dolls on the street, a cynical mocking of the Brotherhood’s high ideals.

Tod Clifton Quotes in Invisible Man

The Invisible Man quotes below are all either spoken by Tod Clifton or refer to Tod Clifton. 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 20 Quotes

Why did he choose to plunge into nothingness, into the void of faceless faces, of soundless voices, lying outside history?...But not quite, for actually it is only the known, the seen, the heard and only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, the lies his keepers keep their power by.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tod Clifton
Related Symbols: The Sambo Doll
Page Number: 439
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has witnessed a series of events that have made him seriously question his faith in the Brotherhood. Brotherhood membership in Harlem has dropped, Brother Tarp has disappeared, and the narrator has encountered Tod Clifton on the street selling racist Sambo dolls. In this passage, the narrator ponders Clifton's choice to leave the Brotherhood and "plunge into nothingness... outside history." His role in the Brotherhood has provided the narrator with a sense of purpose and importance, and as a result he sees the outside world as a "void of faceless faces and soundless voices." This image directly links to the condition of invisibility that the narrator eventually comes to realize is his inevitable fate.

Although he doesn't see it yet, eventually the narrator appreciates the freedom that comes with anonymity, and views the sense of identity given to him by the Brotherhood as false because it requires him to surrender his own autonomy. Furthermore, by telling his own story in his own terms, the narrator places himself within history in a way that reflects his authentic experience, as opposed to submitting to the "lies" authority figures use to stay in power. 

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Tod Clifton Character Timeline in Invisible Man

The timeline below shows where the character Tod Clifton appears in Invisible Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 17
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...Jack is there as well, and notes that everyone is present except for Brother Tod Clifton. Brother Jack informs the members that the narrator is charged with increasing the membership of... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
A tall, dark, and handsome man enters the meeting, and he is identified as Tod Clifton. Brother Jack asks why he is late, and Clifton replies that he had to see... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The meeting continues. The narrator suggests stepping up the Brotherhood’s fight against evictions. Clifton quickly agrees with the narrator. The narrator suggests that the Brotherhood reach out to community... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...Brotherhood members tell him that Ras opposes cooperation between blacks and whites. Brother Jack warns Clifton that the Brotherhood is strictly against violence. (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...He can’t quite place any of them as a “type.” Initially, he is worried that Clifton will resent the narrator’s leadership role, but quickly finds that Clifton is friendly and cooperative.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...a ladder. A crowd has gathered to listen to his speech. As the narrator speaks, Clifton catches his eye, pointing out that Ras the Exhorter and his men have begun to... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...in darkness. The narrator beats off an attacker. In the darkest area, the narrator finds Clifton and Ras fighting hand to hand. Ras pins Clifton and draws a knife to kill... (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 in the... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...every night. Ras vows to fight them, telling them again that they’re betraying their race. Clifton strikes Ras, and Ras falls down as the two Brotherhood men run from the police... (full context)
Chapter 18
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...in order to be able to identify themselves. Wrestrum recounts an incident in which Tod Clifton accidentally ended up beating a white member of the Brotherhood. The narrator says he’ll bring... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...tells the reporter that he is very busy, but that he should try interviewing Brother Clifton instead. As Wrestrum listens to his conversation, the narrator remarks to the reporter that he... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...that he can speak about any subject. Finally, he is sorry to leave Tarp and Clifton. He heads downtown to his new assignment. (full context)
Chapter 19
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...that he is done lecturing on the “Woman Question.” However, what follows is unexpected: Tod Clifton has disappeared. Brother Jack asks if the narrator knows anything about his disappearance. The narrator... (full context)
Chapter 20
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...alone. He orders the remaining members the district to form teams and search for Tod Clifton, whose disappearance remains as mysterious as before. (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...people gathered around a strange, clipped voice. The narrator recognizes a boy, a friend of Clifton’s, standing just outside the crowd. The boy is watching a policeman on the other side... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...source of the barker’s voice, only to discover that the barker is in fact Tod Clifton. The narrator and Clifton’s eyes meet, and Clifton smiles contemptuously while his sales pitch continues.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Before anything else can happen, another whistle comes from Clifton’s boy. A policeman is coming to break up the show. Clifton picks up the Sambo... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Looking at the doll, the narrator wonders how Clifton fell so far so quickly. He then recalls Clifton’s words about the need to “fall... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
The narrator rounds the corner into Bryant Park. In the park he sees two men, Clifton and a police officer. The policeman tries to stop Clifton to fine him for the... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
The narrator tries to approach Clifton, but is waved off by a police officer who tells him to cross the street.... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
The narrator wanders into the subway, shocked by Clifton’s death. He cannot compose his thoughts, and wonders why Clifton would give up the organization... (full context)
Chapter 21
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...to the Brotherhood offices in Harlem. He is too heartbroken to tell the members of Clifton’s death. He wonders what Clifton must have thought when they saw each other earlier that... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...He wonders how the doll works, and quickly discovers a nearly invisible thread that let Clifton control the doll from a distance. The narrator is filled with guilt, thinking that perhaps... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The narrator still can’t make sense of Clifton’s decision or his death. However, he decides to organize a public funeral for Clifton. The... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Several members of Clifton’s Youth Brigade have heard the news of Clifton’s death. The young men and women are... (full context)
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...tries to call headquarters again but receives no answer. He decides to go ahead planning Clifton’s funeral by himself, throwing himself into the work. Collections are made and meetings are organized. (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...narrator is unsure why the people have come out to watch, but wonders if perhaps Clifton’s death is an opportunity for the people to come together and “express their protestations.” (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...says that he has nothing to tell them, and that they know the facts of Clifton’s death. However, the narrator’s command quickly becomes the refrain of a passionate speech he gives... (full context)
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...aim. However, the crowd is clearly affected by the speech. The funeral ends and Tod Clifton is buried. (full context)
Chapter 22
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...committee doesn’t want to listen. Brother Jack tells him that the funeral was wrong because Clifton had betrayed the organization by deciding to sell Sambo dolls. The narrator replies that Clifton... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...that the Brotherhood has abandoned the neighborhood. This, the narrator explains, is the reason for Clifton’s disappearance. (full context)
Chapter 23
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...a drink. The men in the bar are carrying on a heated discussion about Tod Clifton. They ask what the narrator thinks, but the narrator replies that he can’t answer: Clifton... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...narrator walks down the street, he notices that the people of Harlem are energized over Clifton’s shooting. He feels a twinge of hope. He resolves to go see Brother Hambro that... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...Ras points out the narrator and indicates that the Brotherhood is to blame for Tod Clifton’s death. He asks the narrator what the narrator plans to do to address the shooting.... (full context)
Chapter 25
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...the men know for sure, but one implies that the riot started because of Tod Clifton’s shooting. The narrator is amazed that Clifton’s death has caused so much destruction. Another man... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
As the narrator searches through the basement, he burns Clifton’s Sambo doll for light. Next, he takes out the anonymous note and begins to burn... (full context)