Speech and Rhetoric in Invisible Man Essay

1057 Words Apr 7th, 2012 5 Pages
Oratory and Rhetoric in Invisible Man

Many fall victim to the influence of powerful speech—throughout history, public speakers have used oration and rhetoric to manipulate their listeners. Public speaking is an art, as it is often practiced and rehearsed. Politicians, for example, consciously employ the art of oration in hopes of gaining support, sometimes abandoning their own beliefs in order to cater to the audiences’. Similarly, the Invisible Man, in the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, lives each moment as if he is a politician delivering a speech under the scrutiny of an audience—he constantly disciplines himself to adhere to the expectations of others. Ironically, the scenes in which the Invisible Man actually delivers
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As he starts to speak with emotion on a cause he believes in—social justice—the Invisible Man becomes in touch with his ability of self-empowerment. Whereas he typically looks for acceptance in how he is received by others, the Invisible Man instead finds himself. While he gives a speech in Harlem on behalf of the Brotherhood, he abandons what Brother Jack tells him to say, and as a result finds himself “becom[ing] more human” (355). Instead of fabricating his words to please the Brotherhood, he speaks with honesty and therefore is acting upon his own free will. He disregards that his audience is mixed, and says what he really believes, which is social equality and action. In other instances, the Invisible Man would have been more deliberate about catering to his audience, however, he speaks passionately and freely because he gains a sense of authority while giving his speech. Afterwards, he thinks about why he said he felt “more human” and thinks that he feels “less Negro.” By saying this, the Invisible Man learns that race is not an absolute in defining a person. The distinction between black and white becomes less relevant to him, as he starts to believe in his potential after being successful in his public speaking, and believes in his own words of wisdom on social equality. The Invisible Man is able to shed his need to censor himself according to the expectations of white people because he is overcome with emotion. Following the

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