Invisible Man: Novel Summary: Chapters 2-4
This chapter is set on the campus of the protagonist's college in the early 1930s. He marvels at the landscape and the wonderful aspects of nature on the campus. He describes the statue of the founder lifting the veil over the head of a slave and expresses that he can't tell if the veil is being lifted or lowered. The community and its local quirks are also described.
Founder's Day is approaching and many have come to celebrate it, including trustees affiliated with the college. In order to assure their comfort, students are assigned jobs to assist them in their needs during their stay. The protagonist is assigned to be the driver for Mr. Norton, a wealthy white man who is one of the college's valued trustees. During the drive, Norton explains to the protagonist that he feels that the college and its students are his destiny. Because Norton finds the drive relaxing, he asks the protagonist to drive him around the town and during this time they encounter old slave quarters that some of the local citizens still inhabit. They pass by Jim Trueblood's home and the narrator tells Norton of the disgrace Trueblood has brought on his family because of his rape and subsequent impregnation of his daughter. Instantly, Norton wants to meet him. Trueblood tells the story of how because of the cold and lack of heat, he is forced to sleep next to his wife and daughter and that during a dream, he ultimately rapes her. Alarmed by the story, Norton is visibly shaken, gives Trueblood a $100 bill and immediately requests whiskey or some kind of stimulant in order to cope with what he has just heard.
In order to find a stimulant for Norton, the protagonist heads for the nearest place-the Golden Day, a tavern and a brothel. However, before arriving, he also sees a line of black veterans who have been mentally affected by war and military service who are heading in that direction as well. They are all residents of the mental institution; however, they are allowed trips to the Golden Day for release and pleasure. These veterans had formerly been doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.
Hoping to get the whiskey and exit immediately, the protagonist's plans are thwarted by Big Halley, the bartender, who will not allow a student to leave with liquor because of the tense relationship between the Golden Day and the college. Meanwhile, the Golden Day is becoming more rowdy by the minute with only an attendant named Supercargo to keep the vets in line. Eventually, a couple of veterans help to get Norton inside, after the protagonist's last desperate and unsuccessful attempt to convince Halley to let him take the whiskey from the scene. Once Mr. Norton makes it inside, the vets overtake Supercargo and chaos ensues. The protagonist and Norton are briefly separated and eventually meet back up and seek refuge at the balcony. There, one of the veterans, who is a doctor, revives Norton, who had passed out during the chaos, and they begin a conversation. The vet reveals that it was racism that kept him from practicing as a physician. He comments on the protagonist's innocence and invisibility and begins to chide Norton regarding his philosophy that the college is his destiny. His boldness clearly disturbs Norton and he and the protagonist leave the Golden Day. Mr. Norton is visibly angry and silent.
Once the protagonist and Mr. Norton return to campus, Norton asks for a physician and Dr. Bledsoe, the college's president. The protagonist seeks out Dr. Bledsoe who had been worried and was awaiting their arrival. Once Bledsoe learns that the protagonist has taken Norton to the slave quarters and beyond, he is upset but manages to mask his anger fairly well while in Mr. Norton's presence. Norton attempts to explain that it is not the boy's fault, but Bledsoe does not respond positively to these words. The boy is sent away to his dormitory room.
Later in the day, Dr. Bledsoe sends for the protagonist in order to discuss the matter further. On his way to Dr. Bledsoe's office, the protagonist stops by Mr. Norton's to speak to him once again. There, the protagonist learns that Norton will be leaving that same night and that the protagonist needs to speak to Dr. Bledsoe immediately.
These chapters demonstrate the ways in which whites who support the college are unaware of the true realities of African American life not just at the college but for those who reside in the community where the college is set. Mr. Norton's reaction to all that he has learned has negative implications for the protagonist. We can also see the protagonist functioning in a very naeve manner and this has endangered his enrollment at the college and causes him to dismiss the veteran's words.