August 24th, 2005
Ralph Ellison
Lesson Overview


In The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison wrote about the experience
of being ignored, bringing to light a powerful meditation on race
and social structure. This novel was included in the 100
Best Novels
of the 20th Century, in the top 20. Being an outsider,
being outcast, being ignored – all are feelings most people can relate
to. Ellison related this personal experience to a greater societal
structure, using characters and imagery to do so. In this lesson plan,
students will use similar tools to explore the theme of invisibility
in the book, in their own lives, and in their communities.

Note that the novel contains some challenging subject matter,
as well as scenes that some may find offensive. Review the book yourself
before embarking on the lesson plan so you can prepare appropriately.

Grade Levels


Subject Areas

Language Arts


Students will:

  • Read and discuss the novel The Invisible Man

  • Write an essay on the theme of the personal experience of invisibility

  • Examine their own communities to bring to light groups that might
    be considered "invisible"
  • Connect personal experience to an understanding of larger societal


  • A copy of The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison for each
    student to read.
  • Optional: A videotape of American Masters: Ralph Ellison
  • Optional: VCR and monitor
  • Internet-connected computers in the classroom for student research.
    Alternatively, you can suggest these links to students for research
    at home or at a library with Internet-connected computers. Research
    can also be done at a school or public library.
  • Copies of 2 Student Organizers
    as handouts.

Selected Websites

You can bookmark these sites for student research, or
use them for your own review.

– ClassicNote on The Invisible Man
– here you can find many
resources, including an excellent summary and analysis of the novel,
chapter by chapter.
– Ralph Ellison bio

York Times – Featured Author: Ralph Ellison

and Blue: Jazz in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
: another PBS
lesson plan on Ralph Ellison’s book.


United States History:

the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension
of civil liberties

  • Understands individual and institutional influences on the civil
    rights movement

Language Arts:

and uses information for research purposes

reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety
of literary texts

  • Alex

    “The Invisible Man” is by H.G. Wells. Ralph Ellison’s novel is titled “Invisible Man”

  • Tanji

    Alex…Thank you for correcting this. If you are not clear on the significance of the title, I wonder the depth to which you will be able to address the critical issues raised. It’s more than a small error.

  • Kim

    I concur with Alex. The lesson says students need copies of THE Invisible Man. You are right, Tanji–that’s not a small error, but a big one.


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