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[[caption-width-right:216:''Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?'']]

->''"My God, boy! You're black and living in the South--did you forget how to lie?"''
-->-- '''Dr. Bledsoe'''

The first and only completed novel by the critic and reviewer Ralph Ellison, published in 1952 and extremely popular ever since, especially among English teachers and students of African American literature.

The plot revolves around a young black man who is determined to rise to a position of influence, but is ignorant of the amount of lying and scheming that will take. As he bounces from one situation to another in search of power, he both hears the words and witnesses the actions of various people and groups who're manipulating the racial divide.

It is considered one of the most important novels not only of the modern period but also of all time. It has been heralded for its portrayal of the horrific atrocities of racism and the rampant repression of African-American culture in post-Reconstruction South and New York City. [[RuleOfSymbolism Has been noted for it's excessive use of symbolism.]]

In 2017 Hulu acquired the rights to make a TV series adaptation.

JustForFun/NotToBeConfusedWith '''''[[Literature/TheInvisibleMan The]]''' [[Literature/TheInvisibleMan Invisible Man]]'', a ScienceFiction novel by Creator/HGWells, much to the disappointment of numerous high school students.
* TheAllConcealingI: We never do get the protagonist's name. All he does use is "I".
* BarBrawl: The battle royal, where the black protagonist must fight for the amusement of prominent white members of society, is a definite qualifier.
* BlingOfWar: After becoming the Destroyer, Ras dons the garb of an African tribal chief, complete with headdress, leopard-print clothing, and numerous rings and bracelets.
* BodyMotifs: The eyes are referred to often.
* BrokenAesop: Intentionally; Ellison thought there was something deeply wrong in society, but had no idea what to do to fix it.
* CharacterFilibuster: The main character leads political rallies, so this is kind of [[JustifiedTrope a given]].
* TheChessmaster: Both [[spoiler: Bledsoe and Brother Jack]] qualify. Each is also a VillainWithGoodPublicity.
* ClingyMacGuffin: The Sambo doll-shaped cast-iron bank.
* TheCuckoolanderWasRight: The doctor in the asylum may be insane, but his rant to Mr. Norton about how he represses black culture and doesn't actually care that much about the students of the school is completely correct.
* DarkMessiah: Ras the Exhorter, later known as Ras [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast the Destroyer]] is almost a deconstruction of this--he thinks he's a grand leader, but he's really just a fat, absurd fellow whom the {{Powers That Be}} have no trouble manipulating.
* TheDitz: Trueblood, among others.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: Anything and everything that appears in the novel is a metaphor, from the recipe for the paint the main character helps to make, to the Sambo dolls he attempts to destroy. At times, it gets more than a little {{Anvilicious}}.
* DrivenToMadness: [[spoiler: By the end/beginning, the protagonist is siphoning electricity just so that he can turn on a bunch of scavenged lights to feel good, and taking full advantage of his "invisibility."]]
* DumbassNoMore: The end/beginning.
* ElephantInTheLivingRoom: The racial divide.
* EvilAllAlong: Practically everyone the narrator interacts with, but most notably [[spoiler: Dr. Bledsoe and Brother Jack.]]
* FlatWhat: The main character's mental response to [[spoiler: Todd Cliffton's]] Sambo dolls.
* GainaxEnding: In the final scene of the final numbered chapter of the novel, after witnessing [[spoiler: a horrific scene of a race riot virtually reducing his native Harlem to a hellscape with roving gangs of looters, riot police, and a very insane Ras the Destroyer,]] the protagonist slips into a dream state in which he sees [[spoiler: the other characters who most notably influenced him throughout the novel [[GroinAttack castrating]] him, which he treats as a form of spiritual enlightenment.]] Nowhere else in the text does anything this out there ever happen.
* TheGhost: Mr. Emerson, the only person Dr. Bledsoe sent a letter to whose offices the narrator goes to. He remains a reminder that society has cast him aside and doesn't care about him despite the fact that he never even met him.
* GroinAttack: Near the end of the book, the narrator has a dream where [[spoiler: Dr. Bledsoe, Brother Jack, Mr. Emerson, Mr. Norton, Ras, and the Founder]] castrate him.
* HowWeGotHere: Everything up until the interrogation scene is the main character reflecting on his life so far.
* IAmWhatIAm: The protagonist has come to accept that he is "invisible": not literally so, but that mainstream society ignores him for being a minority, and that the nasty, bizarre events that plagued his life have shaped him.
* InvisibleJerkass: The protagonist considers himself this. Not literally invisible, but socially invisible and thus able to evade the police after assaulting a man. He lampshades it a little, by predicting that the reader will want to grab him and angrily shout at him.
* JadeColoredGlasses: The main character winds up with them by the end. In fact, he buys them. Bledsoe seems to have always had them.
* LadyInRed: The woman who seduces the narrator.
* LoveFreak: The main character fluctuates between this and messiah, but is ultimately more the former than the latter. Also something of a {{Pollyanna}} and a HorribleJudgeOfCharacter, and has elements of {{The Fool}}, but he's more of a {{Butt Monkey}} than that makes him sound. We might as well call him an {{Idiot Hero}}, too. Need it be stated that he's a {{Wide Eyed Idealist}}?
* MalcolmXerox: Ras the Exhorter - although this is before Malcolm X came to prominence, so more like Marcus Garvey Xerox.
* NoNameGiven: If a complex character is introduced before their personality is fully explained, they're often not given a full name until we learn their true nature. Some characters go without a name throughout (most notably the narrator, who doesn't quite understand himself.) This is also used with such characters as the Founder to show that NoCelebritiesWereHarmed.
* NotIfTheyEnjoyedItRationalization: The main character comes across a man who raped his daughter by accident (he was sleepwalking/dreaming). When he comes out of the dream and realizes what's happening his daughter refuses to let him stop.
* OneBookAuthor: While other books were published, they all were posthumous.
* ParentalIncest: The main character runs across a man who got his wife and daughter pregnant at the same time. This leads him to disaster.
* PathOfInspiration: [[spoiler:If it's possible to have a secular one, the Brotherhood is this in spades. Even the lower-ranking officials don't realize just how much the organization focuses on gaining power, and how little its highest-ranking members really care about helping the poor and downtrodden.]]
%%* ThePlan: Several kinds.
* PowderKegCrowd: One of the main character's few skills is to manipulate these. Ras can do so too.
* SeeminglyWholesomeFiftiesGirl: Sybil is a funny case in that she would qualify as TheIngenue if it weren't for her rape fantasies. (As the victim, mind you, not the rapist--she's utterly smothered by her life, and wants something wild.)
* SelfMadeMan: Bledsoe is one ([[spoiler:or at least pretends to be one, given how much he lies and schemes]]), while the title character tries to become one.
* StepfordSmiler: There are ''so'' many black characters to whom this applies, and an awful lot of the Brotherhood fits it too.
* TakeThat: To Horatio Alger, among others.
%%* TheStrategist: Amazingly enough, the main character can manage this despite being an idiot in most respects.
* TheUnreveal: It appears at many points that the narrator's name is about to be revealed, only for it to bait-and-switch at the last second (such as "He said my name", "I told him my name", or "Written on the card was a name").
* UnwittingPawn: The narrator.
** He is [[spoiler: used by the brotherhood to drum up business with more blacks without actually accomplishing anything.]]
** [[spoiler: Dr. Bledsoe]] uses him to [[spoiler: make the school look good.]]
%%* UpperClassTwit: Sybil, among others.
%%* WhoWouldBeStupidEnough: How Bledsoe feels about the main character.
* YankTheDogsChain: Any and every time the main character thinks he's finally found a decent life for himself.