English discussion melissa (ellison and walker)


Discussion of selections from Ellison’s Invisible Man

African American literary critics wanted Ellison to focus his fiction on the theme of civil rights for African Americans, but Ellison never became the narrowly focused protest writer that critics wanted him to be. While Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) certainly describes the experience of an African American man living in a white-dominated society, the novel also captures a range of experiences, and utilizes a repertoire of sophisticated writing techniques, such that readers of all races can find the novel captivating.

Our discussion of the novel will not ignore the racial elements; however, we will highlight Ellison’s writing techniques, which demonstrate the emerging postmodern sensibility.

Earlier, we discussed the main motifs of postmodernism, like the obsession with manipulating language and the obsession with media separating humans from reality. Connected to these earlier motifs, another major motif of postmodernism is an obsession with the symbolic image. Modernist literature used key images to symbolize the truth of the story. However, postmodernist literature focuses on how images can manipulate, or even obscure, the truth. 

Ellison’s Invisible Man is concerned with how images can tell or disguise the truth about a man. 

1. The prologue is quite bizarre. It describes the Invisible Man’s home, which is filled with light bulbs. It also contains a drug-induced dream sequence of a church preaching. The prologue doesn’t make narrative sense; however, it is thematically important because it discusses the power of light, color and images to tell—or disguise—the truth. Pick out two passages that dwell on this theme and interpret their meaning.

2. Discuss how the image of the narrator is subverted beyond his control in Chapter One: Battle Royal. What kind of image is the narrator forced to present of himself? Pick out two passages that demonstrate the manipulation of the narrator’s image.

(Hint: Find a passage where the narrator describes the kind of image he wants to present of himself as an intelligent, young, black man. Then, find a passage that describes what he looks like after he is manipulated into participating into a boxing match.)


Discussion for Walker’s “Everyday Use”

Along with Toni Morrison, Alice Walker is considered one of America’s most important African American women writers. Walker is also quite prolific, authoring several short story and essay collections, important literary studies on Flannery O’Connor and Zora Neale Hurston, as well as many novels, of which The Color Purple (1982) is the most famous.

“Everyday Use” is considered Walker’s most compelling short story. Many literary studies have analyzed various aspects of the story: Walker’s concern for maintaining the heritage of African Americans, Walker’s insertion of autobiographical details into the characters of Maggie and Wangero/Dee, and so on. Our discussion will highlight the postmodern concerns that Walker raises in the story: how the history of African American (or any other ethnicity) can be transformed by capitalism into commodity images that people can put on or take off like clothing or a fashion accessory.

1. Dee believes that she now has a much better appreciation of her heritage because she has gained a level of sophistication from her college education and financial freedom. But how does she reveal, throughout the story, that her appreciation is, in fact, shallow? Find 2 passages to support your answer.

2. Maggie certainly doesn’t have the great historical and social awareness of her college-educated sister. Maggie certainly cannot preserve the heirloom quilts, nor appreciate them, in the manner of her sister. Nor has Maggie enjoyed the favor of Mother Johnson. So, why does Mother Johnson bless Maggie with those quilts? Find 2 passages to support your answer. 

for each Discussion  and questions pls provide 2 quotes with page numbers,  Please use the Answer Sandwich method to answer each question.  The passages you add to your answer should be around 2-4 sentences long. Please include a page reference. 


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