As a man, Rinehart is an enigma who never actually appears in the novel. Learning of his identity, however, serves as a key moment of awakening for the narrator and enables him to adapt his relationship with the Brotherhood. Mentions of Rinehart begin to appear in Chapter 23 after the narrator puts on a pair of dark glasses and a hat, a disguise which he dons in an attempt to traverse the streets of Harlem without attracting Ras the Exhorter’s attention. A variety of people on the street suddenly begin approaching the narrator as if he were Rinehart, and he becomes increasingly perplexed by the man’s true identity. To some Rinehart is a lover, to some he is a gambler, and to some he is a reverend. While the narrator initially finds the contradictions of these different identities frustrating, he comes to realize that an inherent freedom exists in possessing so many titles. This newfound sense of possibility occurs in tandem with the narrator’s declaration of his invisibility, and he aims to harness these two qualities to undermine the Brotherhood’s attempts to abandon the needs of Harlem’s Black community.
At the same time that discovering Rinehart’s multifaceted identity fills the narrator with a sense of personal agency, the way in which he uses it within the Brotherhood ultimately backfires and drives him to reconsider his own identity yet again. The narrator pretends to go along with the Brotherhood’s new directives and submits a fake list of new members in an attempt to play both sides as Rinehart might. Despite this approach, the narrator eventually realizes that “by pretending to agree [he] had indeed agreed,” or inherently supported, the Brotherhood’s goal of instigating a race riot in Harlem. This event reveals the inherent danger of having a malleable identity and exacerbates the narrator’s frustration toward his own self-perception. In the end, the idea of Rinehart and the mysterious, chaotic life he represents pushes the narrator forward on his journey of self-discovery, inspiring him to seek out a more stable identity.