The Emergence of the Invisible Man: Images of Ascent and Descent in Ralph Ellison's Juneteenth.

Document Type


Publication Date



Shortly after the acclaimed publication of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, critics anticipated the publication of his second novel in the hopes that it would address many of the ambiguities posed by Invisible Man. Critics questioned: What happens to the Invisible Man as a narrative consciousness? Does he ever emerge from his underground state? Can he even do so successfully? The posthumous publication of Juneteenth, provides some answers while posing more questions. The predominant downward thematic movement of the novel After having examined and dismissed group-based solutions to his invisibility, the narrator finds himself in a state of Emersonian individualism which, arguably, prevents his decisive emergence above ground. Ellison's inability to envision a world in which a black man could both maintain his individual identity and affect political change resulted in his inability to publish a completed novel after Invisible Man. The predominant imagery of ascent in Juneteenth indicates Ellison's attempts to find a solution to the pervasive invisibility of his Invisible Man and decisively bring him above ground. However, the continuing semi-conscious state of the protagonist in Juneteenth indicates that he remained unable to find a satisfactory answer to the invisibility of the black man in America. .


Eric Newhall




Ford Research Fellowship

This document is currently not available here.