Invisible Man

Big Brother 12th Grade

Morally ambiguous characters offer personas that, while difficult to unravel, add depth and nuance to works of fiction. In Invisible Man, author Ralph Ellison depicts Brother Jack as a morally ambiguous figure whose characterization changes the protagonist’s purpose. When the narrator first meets Brother Jack, Jack seems compassionate; he offers the struggling narrator a high-paying job to combat racial prejudice. But as the plot develops, the narrator realizes that Jack’s intentions are not as altruistic as they initially seemed: he is intent only on blindly imposing the Brotherhood’s ideologies, with little regard for the plight of African-Americans or the narrator. Brother Jack’s duality frequently changes the narrator’s perspective on the Brotherhood’s mission, ultimately fueling his entire journey.

Jack is introduced as the narrator’s main contact to the Brotherhood, a society seemingly intent on addressing racial injustice. After hearing the narrator’s exhortation at the Provos’s eviction, Jack invites him to join the Brotherhood, offering him a large salary and a home to advance Harlem’s black community by “articulat[ing] the grievances of the people” (292). It seems that he genuinely cares about African-Americans, not...

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