The Invisible Man and public speaking

  • Up to chapter seventeen


Public speaking holds an important place in the narrative development of the invisible man – “silence is consent” the narrator explains later (345). The narrator cannot speak in the first chapter, but in chapters thirteen and sixteen, he becomes someone who is listened to. One of the early issues with public speech concerns the meaning of the words spoken in public spaces, as they seem to be more for the show and hold no deeper meaning: they are said to be “like words hurled to the trees of a wilderness, or into a well of slate-gray water; more sound than sense, a play upon the resonances of buildings, an assault upon the temples of the ear” or “the sound of words that were no words, counterfeit notes singing achievements yet unachieved” (113). For his political speech, the words have taken on a magical nature, as there is “a magic in spoken words” (381). Like Douglass who he thinks has “talked his way from slavery to a government ministry”, the narrator refuses to stop speaking, surmises that he is changing both himself and his station as he keeps on speaking: “something strange and miraculous and transforming is taking place in me right now” (345). The rhythm and sounds of words seem to be much more important that their meaning, though, and one can wonder if this belief will hold: the invisible man of the prologue seem to have foregone any sort of public speaking, and yet the narrative he is telling in the form of the book seems to be an example of it.