Thoughts on Ralph Ellison Interview

The famous writer Ralph Ellison’s first impression to me was unimpressive. He slouched on the sofa and had his hand supporting his head throughout the interview as if he would fall asleep at any second. Ellison also stuttered several times in the beginning, but he became more fluent as the interview progressed. On the other hand, when Ellison was reading an excerpt from his unfinished novel, his face was lit up with expression and his voice was coated by a dreamy quality. In addition, it was interesting to see how much the writer payed attention to small details. When he was recounting his personal stories, Ellison would constantly correct himself on specifics such as “70th street” and “69th street”. This trait revealed Ellison as a man of observation in all aspects of life; thus it was not surprising that he wrote “The Invisible Man”, an extremely deep and intricate novel. I was surprised by the fact that Ellison “frequently employed a tape recorder to test the rhythm of his writing” ( 8:07-8:13). No wonder in many parts of his novel the passages obtained an almost poetry-like quality.

Ellison’s several ideas in the interview also reflected themselves in “The Invisible Man”. The writer realized that “every time people see [his] face they start interpreting in terms of [his] racial identity rather than equality” (3:40-3:43). It was from that time that Ellison found his invisibility, which in part lead to the novel. He saw that many only judged the others from their stereotypes and appearances rather than their true characters. Ellison also uncovered an important issue in the society: the black leaders were depended upon the “white supporters; they have no particular way in affecting their will” (11:25-11:30). This idea could be seen in the Brotherhood, where almost all the leaders were white and T.I.M.’s thoughts were often crushed by them. In addition, Ellison mentioned a mentor of his that later turned insane and went to an institute for treatment. The wisdom of old man from the institute in “The Invisible Man” revealed Ellison’s respect for his mentor.

Ellison saw a connection between writing and art, and he believed that “a given work of art, if it’s really working, should engage all of the importance of one’s being” (20:02-20:09). Ellison’s dedication to his writings can be seen in every work he ever published, and it is a combination of his unique character and approach to novel writing that made him one of the greatest writer in America.


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