Invisible Man: Novel Summary: Chapters 15-17
At the beginning of this chapter, the protagonist is sleeping and is awakened by a terrible sound that is very harsh to his ears. Someone is knocking at a pipe somewhere close. The protagonist gets up and races across the room, where he notices near the door for the first time a coin-bank that is shaped like a caricature of a black man with grinning lips and large eyes. When a coin is placed in the man's hand and a lever pressed at the back, the coin will be propelled into the grinning mouth. Enraged, the protagonist breaks the bank, and Mary comes to his door to find out what the commotion is about. He hides his act from Mary and places the shards of the broken bank in his briefcase. He also pays her $100 and attributes his new found wealth to having played the numbers (a gambling practice that is similar to a lottery).
The protagonist leaves Mary's for the last time and once he is far enough away from her home, he attempts several times to discard the broken bank, but is unable to because people nearby thwart his plans. A woman stops him from putting it in her trash can, and when he leaves it in the snow at an intersection, a man chases after him with it, thinking he must have accidentally dropped it. One person even accuses him of attempting a "pigeon drop" (dumping stolen goods), so he has to keep the bank. He shops for a suit and arrives at the apartment that the Brotherhood selected for him. The apartment is large and filled with amenities. He settles in and begins to think about the night's rally that he will be attending.
The protagonist meets with Brother Jack and others to go to the Harlem Rally. Most everyone is quiet and reflective and the protagonist has his own concerns about whether or not his speech will be good. In the midst of the situation, he is skeptical of Jack and others; however, he prepares himself to go in but is blinded by the spotlight. He crashes into a man in front of him as they enter. The protagonist delivers his speech in the same spirit as the eviction speech; however, Jack cautions him against being too revealing to the audience. Ultimately, the crowd responds well and Jack and members of the brotherhood feel that this energy should be organized. One brother, however, doesn't like the speech and feels it was hysterical and politically irresponsible. Another man, Brother Wrestrum, agrees and they convince the other members that the protagonist is in need of training. He is ordered to go through approximately three months of training with Brother Hambro before he can become a leader. In spite of this, the protagonist's feelings are not deadened by the responses. He feels renewed and starts to see many of his life lessons come together and is hopeful that one day his voice will be heard. He is eager to begin study with Brother Hambro in order to move toward this.
Four months have passed and the protagonist meets with Jack who informs him that he will be the chief spokesman of the Harlem District. Jack also informs the protagonist that even though his studies with Hambro are progressing well, he should master the material and not let it master him. He and the protagonist go to the Harlem office and Jack introduces the protagonist to Brother Tarp, an elderly black man with the organization.
Once he is settled there, the protagonist meets with the Harlem committee. Everyone is present except Tod Clifton, who eventually shows up late. He explains that he has been in a row with a group of black nationalists, Ras the Exhorter and his affiliates. The protagonist befriends Clifton and they adopt Ras's method of rallying the people by placing a ladder on the street and speaking from there. When they attempt this, Ras is angered and confronts them. Clifton and the protagonist discuss the encounter and resolve to continue their work. The next day, Brother Tarp gives the protagonist a picture of Frederick Douglass. The protagonist is slowly gaining recognition in the community and even organizes a drill team called "The People's Hot Foot Squad." Things are moving along considerably well.
At the end of the chapter, the protagonist is examining his life full circle and has fully adopted the Brotherhood's beliefs on discipline and the ability of science to control events.
Although the protagonist is progressing quite well, the setbacks he experiences serve as foreshadowing for the inner turmoil he will soon experience, as well as jealousy he will receive from other members of the organization. This is also an important section because the protagonist establishes his position in Harlem and forms bonds with Tod Clifton and Brother Tarp, both of whom influence him greatly.