The narrator tells us that we’ve heard all the important information. He confesses that he has come to accept his position in the hole. The narrator says that he can’t tell if his life in the hole puts him in the avant-garde or in the past, but that he’ll leave those decisions to men like Brother Jack.
The narrator’s position in the hole is intermediate: he has not rejected the world outright, but he no longer participates in it either. The narrator decides to refrain from judging his historical position, suggesting that to do so is misguided.
The narrator says that he will try to be honest, a feat which he finds to be difficult. He remarks that he was never more hated than when he tried to be honest, and never more loved than when he lied and told men exclusively what they wanted to hear. The narrator says that he has become “ill of affirmation.”
One way of viewing the narrator’s struggle through the book is his difficulty in being honest, especially the difficulty in being honest with himself. Truthfulness is the way to change injustice, even if people do not always want to hear.
The narrator continues his meditation, saying that sometimes a man’s feelings “are more rational than his mind,” and that these feelings can pull a man in several directions. He says that he is tired of trying to “to go in everyone’s way but my own.” Now the narrator truly realizes his invisibility, and remarks that he began as nothing and returned to nothing.
It has become apparent to the narrator that often he ignored his unconscious desires in favor of something that his intellect told him was the best way to go, including many of his actions with the Brotherhood.
The narrator indicates that his hibernation is not enough for him. He says that his mind won’t let him rest, and that books and jazz aren’t enough. The narrator thinks of his grandfather over and over, despite the failure of his own experiment in “yessing.” He is still unsure what his grandfather’s words mean, and suggests that perhaps his words have something to do with taking responsibility and recognizing the connectedness of men.
The narrator is not content to simply rest and contemplate his situation. His disposition still requires that he try to act. The words of his grandfather remain the most important memory in his life, but he understands the words differently now. His grandfather wasn’t merely speaking of sabotage, but also of self-empowerment.
The narrator asks what the next phase after his hibernation should be, and confesses that he does not know. However, he says that he has learned that the world has infinite possibilities, and that men should embrace this fact. He uses this idea to suggest the importance of diversity, and argues against conformity.
The narrator, not knowing how to move forward in the struggle of race relations, implies that the way forward must be a possibility that as of yet remains undiscovered. He indicates that the true danger is in thinking all possibilities have been explored.
The narrator says he is reminded of something that happened in the subway the other day. He saw a lost old 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 remember the narrator and asks him if he knows the way to Centre Street. Mr. Norton asks the narrator why he should know him, and the narrator replies that he is Mr. Norton’s destiny. The narrator asks if Mr. Norton is ashamed, which causes Mr. Norton to become indignant. Before the narrator can continue, Mr. Norton hops into the next express train.
The return to Mr. Norton brings the narrator’s progress full circle from his youth. Mr. Norton’s sense of destiny remains as absurd as ever. However, meanwhile the narrator has changed immensely, becoming more like the ex-doctor in his ability to speak freely with Mr. Norton without fear of consequences. Mr. Norton is still completely ignorant, but at least the narrator his no longer beholden to his pointless and patronizing whims.
The narrator returns to his meditation. He says that sometimes he considers returning down south, but quickly reminds himself that “the true darkness lies within my own mind.”
The narrator knows that no change in scenery will alter the fundamental problems of injustice, which rest in the mind.
The narrator asks himself why he bothers to write down his story. He answers himself by saying that the process of writing is therapeutic, that it allows him to remember and helps draw him back up into the world. He remarks that despite everything that has happened, he is still able to love, and that love may even be necessary.
Ellison suggests that the narrator’s decision to write or tell his story is itself a political action, a way to clear the air and reorganize stale thoughts about the nature of race and other issues.
The narrator compares himself to his grandfather, saying that he must accept his own humanity just as his grandfather did. Finally, the narrator says that he is ready to end his hibernation, and that he will soon come up to the surface for breath. He says that a plan of living must never lose sight of the chaos against which it is conceived. Finally, he says again that he is invisible, and that as a disembodied voice there was nothing he could do but “rave.” He speaks a final line: “Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak to you?”
The narrator notes that part of his own long search for an identity was hampered by his refusal to recognize himself or “accept his humanity.” The narrator indicates that perhaps the time to take action has come. His final words indicate that he hopes that his words may reach readers on a deep, fundamental level, far below their intellects—which can be so easily manipulated—to what may rather be termed their hearts or souls, their true individual selves.