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In class we had a discussion on Dr. Bledsoe's character, this is a continuation and expansion of those discussions.
When reading what others thought of Dr. Bledsoe, I initially felt that this was a person that was truly trying to better the educational opportunities of the African American community. Yet, found in Invisible Man's interactions with Bledsoe, that he was absolutely not that. AS we discussed in class, he is willing to let every Black person hang if it meant that his position of power remained. Is this someone that is evil? Not necessarily in my opinion. To me, he has managed to play into what the rich white people want, and appease them in order to gain power for himself. He alone is not able to change the system, so is it necessarily evil of him to side with the whites in order to get himself a reputable life?
What do you think about this?
I do not think that Bledsoe is evil either in the sense that he plays the system in order to get what he wants. This, in some regards, is similar to how IM also puts on a mask around important whites, and only wants them to see what he wants them to see (He was just as upset that Mr. Norton saw the Vets and Trueblood as Dr. Bledsoe was). However, I think it is evil that he plays into the system so much yet claims that he is against racism and will help these students fight back in a way. What Bledsoe is doing is playing into exactly what the whites want and therefore doesn't help advance the black society towards equality whatsoever.
I think that evil is a strong word for him because I think we are using the wrong word for what he is. Evil is reserved for those who cannot be redeemed to be evil you must not be able to repent your sins people who come to mind are Mao, Jeffery Dahmer, eric harris. People who have committed truly unforgivable actions. Our friend the dean is not on that level he is a man who is selfish and greedy not evil. In my opinion, I feel is that he has just given up. He sees in his opinion that Brooker T Washington's dream was a failure in his eyes and he just wants to secure what is left for himself. His well-being is the only thing that really matters in his eyes because what else is he supposed to do. He will have nothing if he tries to fight but if he loses this job he has nothing left. He doesn't want to go back to being poor. He wants to be free from his past
In my opinion, Bledsoe is a two-faced, manipulative traitor and a hypocrite. He is ambitious and selfish and is a man who would take any measure to gain what he wanted. But I don't believe this makes him evil. Granted he has a very prominent "survival of the fittest" mindset, I don't think that mindset can be compared to being evil at heart. He's focused on pleasing the people he has to please in order to keep his head above water in the harsh environment he is surrounded by.
The word evil is an exactly how I would describe it. He was more of a manipulator and a morally unsound person, but not a 'evil' personify definition. It definitely comes down to the opinion of the reader on what they see as a form of evil or not, but I believe that many things have to come together to make someone evil and in this case it was more of a lying/shady situation. It is still not a good thing to be the way he was because he abused his situation and the social climate of his time to get things to work in his favor, but he was not exactly by definition 'profoundly immoral and wicked".
I am not really sure how I feel about Dr. Bledsoe. It is mentioned that Dr. Bledsoe could be an example of the person IM's grandfather wants him to be. Typically, the wisdom of elders in novels is symbolic with the correct form of action. So, am I supposed to support him? I don't know, because later he makes those awful selfish comments that he would tear others down to keep his power. He sees the system that was placed before him, and decided to take advantage of it, but not to change of better it for other black Americans. @conster I agree with you that he is just one person, he can't change the system alone, but I don't think that means he shouldn't try. It is clear he doesn't agree with the idea of social responsibility that Booker T. Washington presented to the whites, yet he presents as if he does. He reprimands IM for not figuring it out, so it can be assumed that the other students have? They have figured out to please the whites to get what they need as individuals. To me it is still unclear if getting what they need individually is advantageous to changing the system or not. After all, every single person in power is against them consciously or unconsciously. That being said, Dr. Bledsoe has power and could try to change things, he doesn't. That lack of action says a lot about him. He seems to have been defeated by the system. He's still a jerk though.
@madams43 You took the words right out of my mouth. I have strong feelings about Dr. Bledsoe. If you have read to Chapter 9, you will know why. Bledsoe pleases white people so he can stay pure in their eyes. He wants them to continue to fund the school, and takes extreme measures when his students (ie. IM) go against the worthy complex the school environment has curated. Bledsoe and the other higher-ups curate an image of a Godly Founder that should be worshipped and praised. No student has yet to contradict this matter. Are they too afraid to do so? Has the thought that the Founder, Dr. Bledsoe, and other administration do not have the wellbeing of their students at the forefront even crossed any of their minds? I am eager to learn if IM acts upon the questions I have posed, or takes a different direction.
@theboulder I am on the same page on Mr. Bledsoe. I do know that his character is certainly not a hero, but I do not think he is evil. Bledsoe has a very selfish attitude that we have all seen, where he is willing to see his whole race collapse in order to keep his own power. But as someone has stated, one person can not change/ fix the racial inequality himself. So, in a selfish-thinking mindset, I understand why Bledsoe operates in society the way that he does. It would take many years for racial inequality to decline and definitely more years than his lifetime, so helping his race as a whole/ for the long run will not help him personally in his lifetime. I understand Bledsoe's thinking but I do not respect it. I think that he is not honorable and should not be respected, but I also do not think that he is evil. We talked in class on how evil is a strong word so I still hold that stance. To me, evil would be to intentionally do extreme harm to someone. Bledsoe just discounted the good of others, he didn't try to destroy it.
@savhoisington You bring up a good point. I cannot stand Dr. Bledsoe and reading about him and seeing what he wrote in the letter for IM made me even more mad. (humble servant. really? But the good point I think you bring up is that you can understand Bledsoe's thinking but you do not respect it. I think there is an important difference here. There can be a fine line between understanding and respecting and Bledsoe is a good example of this. We understand his selfishness (sorta, at least for me. I don't have him figured out yet) but by no means do we respect it. I would also like to bring up another point. Can someone commit evil acts and not be evil? Also what is the definition of evil? Irredeemable?
I think Bledsoe can be interpreted within the purview of power corrupting. Maybe not necessarily corrupting per se, but just the association of power and corruptness. The biggest moment that stuck out to me was when Bledsoe called IM the N-word. He's acting just like any other oppressive white man would, even though he's supposed to be "on the other side." This sort of opens up this new idea for me, that the whole struggle presented throughout this novel isn't a race issue, or maybe isn't strictly a race issue. It's all based on the power one holds in society, and even though that's based on race, there are exceptions. So to say if Bledsoe is evil? About as evil as any other powerful white man at the time, I'd say.
@salmon After reading your post I found that when reading that moment as well stuck out with me. Bledsoe calling IM the n-word was just an interesting take on his character for me. Throughout the book so far we have heard the word to know that it has the stereotypical white person feel to it for the time. And I don't really like that I used the word stereotypical but as of right now that's how I feel with this book, even with it not being a story primarily about race. But to answer the question on the post your last sentence fits perfectly for my opinion and emotion with the topic.
@snowyyeti @madams43 @savhoisington @entirethread I feel like we are letting our emotions get to us on this one. I certainly wouldn't call Dr. Blendsoe evil but rather a product of the white men's work. He's not there to make us angry but rather show us how complicit he is with the white men and what exactly losing an ounce of reason looks like. He's there as proof that as long as you follow what the whites say, you will be rewarded immensely. His entire life has been stripped and replaced with a mask so elegant that it is a reflection of everything the whites could have ever hoped for. He may have a personality and motives on the outside but on the inside, he is full of nothingness. He really isn't a human anymore but a living conglomeration of the white's philosophy. He's there to show us what happens when we as humans blind ourselves and walk along a dangerous path of losing our identity. Let's not be blinded by emotion but rather understand why Ellison wants us to pay attention to this specific character.
@salmon, I agree, I feel like Bledsoe "played the game" too much. What I mean by this is that Bledsoe followed what the whites wanted to do so often, instead of fighting back, he became corrupt. Because the whites rewarded this behavior, and he began to treat black people as a white person would. I wouldn't necessarily call him evil because I believe he is just lost in his own power and stature. But the way he speaks down on his own race sure does make him seem evil. I think the example that you brought up was a good example to show the concept of being lost in your own power. I feel like after he said it, it may have surprised him too. Because that's how lost he is in what he has become.
To respond to OPs question, no, I don't think he is evil. However, he is definitely not morally correct. I think he is extremely manipulative for his own gain, however I think it's also safe to say he is doing this to keep himself from danger. I think we need to keep in mind that while yes, he is pleasing the white people, we need to remember that the people that didn't please the white people, were subject to horrifying treatment. Although I'd say he pleases the white people more than he really needs too, but this could just be from his clear power trip.
@aplitstudent123 I think that you bring up some good points about Bledsoe not being evil but some of his acts that could be considered evil. I do not really agree with you point comparing Bledsoe and IM though. You mentioned that Bledsoe plays the system and then went on to explain that it is evil to play into the system and also, at the same time, be against racism. I do not think that IM putting on a mask around white people is the same as Bledsoe playing the system. I think that most black people in this time period would put on some sort of mask when around white people just because of the way that things were back then.
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