In the epilogue, readers have returned to the hole with the narrator, and have followed the narrator through the course of his life to come back to where he is in the “present”. Here, we see even more clearly Ellison’s rejection of a linear character development for the narrator. For one, the general structure of this novel is that of a circle, we end where we began. Along this larger circle (between introduction and epilogue), there are epicycles of development too: when the narrator seems to have developed in one direction (un-blinded), but once again wakes up within the next layer of the larger dream(/nightmare?) (the narrator constantly refers to a veil being lifted away and waking from a dream, but readers soon see that that has not truly happened). Even though linear forward character development has not taken place, the character has definitely developed or as he puts it “in spite of [him]self [he’s] learned some things” (579), he has changed and he himself sees that change has happened (self-awareness at a much level than when he was younger).
Within the hole, we see the narrator’s inward reflection, finally accessing his internal self most completely. He realises that he “was pulled this way and that for longer than I can remember. And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself. So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man. Thus I have come a long way and returned and boomeranged a long way from the point in society toward which I originally aspired” (573). Circular language (“boomerang”) is used to refer to development, where the starting point is not the starting point, but paradoxically further. The narrator has returned(? or finally access) his essential and original self to some degree.
Towards the end, we see the novel is not at the end, and development is implied to occur afterward. The narrator prepares to emerge from his hole, feeling the call of social responsibility (though this time, it is implied his public self will be more his after the revelation mentioned before). “I’m coming out, no less invisible without it [his old skin], but coming out nonetheless” -> development with continuity.
The novel itself is an epicycle within an even larger circle, whether the narrator’s character development path, or the larger novel world’s society’s history (as the invisible man cites how the individual is tied to society (“Our fate is to become one, and yet many” (577), or the social history of our world (thinking about the role of fiction in real world).