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The Funeral Speech-Chapter 21
Since we did not get a chance to talk about this part of the novel, I wanted to open up a chance for discussion. While I was reading this chapter, I noticed quite a connection between 2020 and this chapter. It was pretty unsettling to think that what IM said in this chapter, are things that we're still hearing about today. IM's repetition of this line, was pretty impactful, "His name was Clifton, Tod, Clifton, he was unarmed and his death was as senseless as his life was futile" (pg 457). I thought this whole speech was pretty impactful, and I feel that Ellison chose his words very deliberately, "But this cop had an itching finger and an eager ear for a word that rhymed with 'trigger' and when Clifton fell he had found it" (pg 457). What are your thoughts on this chapter? Did you notice the parallels between the past year and this chapter?! Did you notice any techniques Ellison used to make the speech more meaningful?
I was on the same exact page. The names George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others kept popping up in my head as I read this chapter. The continuity of police shooting unarmed black men through time just further implanted the idea in my mind that history repeats itself. I feel that this connection that we now have with the black lives matter movement being so prominent in 2020 to Tod Clifton's death provides a more prominent meaning of the heart-aching truths that we live in. I also agree that the speech was impactful, that all he could say was his name to constantly remind people that this was a human being with a life and with no intentions of harm. IM really portrayed his innocence, which was later shot down in private by Brother Jack because he saw him as a traitor.
It was almost as if someone recorded every bit of the protests that happened in 2020. It was a chilling similarity and only speaks to the power of literature. Sometimes the reason why a piece of literature tests the time is because it is relevant no matter the time period. I felt the speech was impactful but ultimately, it was showing IM's continuous struggle over the "we" and "I" ideology that has plagued him for his entire life.
I definitely saw similarities to things that happened in the summer of 2020. I think the whole situation harps home on the ideas of the novel so I guess the bloody summer which we all witnessed on TV and social media ends up being lived out in invisible man in the final chapter of the novel so I think this really is a deep dive into a struggle which was going on during those months so i think it definitely felt uneasy and a picture for things to come
I thought IM harping on the fact that he really had nothing to say and that everyone should just leave was the most powerful thing for me. I mean, truly, there wasn't anything to say there. What happened happened, and you can't change that fact retroactively, you can only get mad about it. IM's speech being anchored in that idea of there not really being a need to say anything gave it a very hopeless feeling, one that's not dissimilar to seeing events on the news and being powerless to make any meaningful change to the police system.
I don't think the themes of this book will ever be irrelevant, but with the topic so close to our modern day events, drawing connections is even easier. I think, personally, that 2020 was the best year to read Invisible Man, simply because of how particularly relevant race and identity seem to be in this year's societal landscape.
As I was reading the Clifton funeral scene, I actually made the connections to the modern day as well. Besides that point that most of you are talking about, I wanted to address my feelings about his speech. I thought what he was saying was true but he could have done it in a better way. He was lashing out against everyone and I don't think he represented himself well for that reason. I think the much better and more effective option for IM would be to have a nicer tone and address the crown on behalf of the change needing to take place in the community and beyond.
@salmon I like how you noticed the feeling of hopelessness Ellison brings to the chapter with IM saying there is really nothing that can be, which is true. I also agree that this book will never not be relevant because of our history. Thinking about that fact, I feel a similar frustration and hopelessness that IM had in his speech. With issues regrading race, it feels like they can never really be resolved. We have made progress, it's crazy when realizing that the 50s were not that long ago- our grandparents were born in a much different time than us. It seems that because of the history of humans, a resolution to race related issues is impossible. What do you guys think? Do you think a solution is possible even with our past? Will history always be dragging us down or are we able to rise above it? If we can rise above it, how?
@gil It's almost a broader concept here, where it almost seems like human problems just can't be solved. There's a reason really old literature still holds up, since if the work is timeless, the conflict usually is too. They were having race issues long before any semblance of modern society existed. Things so often repeat themselves in different ways, it's hard to say for certain if we've ever overcome any major societal issue. Every leap of progress seems to be met with another roadblock. Petty crimes have been around for millenia, how come they still exist if they're such a nuisance? That may be a bad example, but you get the point. I feel like Invisible Man being about much more than race makes a lot more sense with this revelation, because everything about humans is just a matter of keeping them running.
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