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Monica Kempski Ch.

11 surrealism

Ellison uses his technique of surrealism to portray IM’s symbolic death and
rebirth in chapter eleven. This is significant because after his “death”, IM wakes up with
a clean slate and unformed identity. This event was pivotal in IM’s quest to discover his
identity.
Ellison’s technique of surrealism aids in portraying IM’s “death.” IM, injected
with drugs, begins to discover a distorted world around him. As he is laying in the
operating room in pain he “kept hearing the opening motif of Beethoven’s Fifth- three
short and one long buzz” (232.4). In reality, the buzzing noises were the machines
monitoring his heart rate. Later, the doctors intend to recessitate him by electric shock.
Again, he sees this event in a surreal way. “A whirring began that snapped and cracked
with static, and suddenly I seemed to be crushed between the floor and the ceiling”
(232.7). IM was not really being crushed by the ceiling, but feeling the compression of
electric shock. After this shock, IM describes the pain of his “death.” “My lungs were
compressed like a bellows and each time my breath returned I yelled, punctuating the
rhythmical action of the nodes” (232.9). He imagines himself in a coffin, followed by
“strains of music, a Sunday air, drifted from a distance. I warded off the pain” (234.1).
This sensual vision is his final passing into heaven. The pain has ceased.
IM’s immediate rebirth is enhanced with surrealism. His rebirth is described with
“green hedges, dazzling with red wild roses appeared before my eyes, stretching with a
gentle curving to an infinity empty of objects, a limpid blue space” (234.3). When IM
wakes up, he cannot remember anything. His name, how he got there, where he lives, and
when he was born is all a mystery to him. Thus, he has no identity. Because he had
“died,” he had woken up “born again.” This explains his loss of identity, because when
someone is born, they have not yet laid out their identity. Now, IM has a fresh start in his
quest to discover who he is. With this rejuvenation, he can leave behind his past
complications and troubles, because they no longer belong to him.
IM’s death and rebirth will definitely help him progress as he seeks to become
visible to the world. Now, he has a new identity that he freely can form on his own terms.
IM eventually uses this identity as a strong and confident speaker and orator. This strong
identity helps IM to rally up the population through several speeches. These speeches
help IM to achieve being heard, and shattering his invisibility.