Ralph Ellison’s writing style in Invisible Man might best be described as symphonic for the way it captures many of the idioms and dialects of the United States. The sheer range of styles on display include the speech of poor Southern Black people like Jim Trueblood, working-class Northern Black people like Mary, and educated Black people like Dr. Bledsoe. Ellison also mimics the accented idiom of immigrants like Ras the Exhorter, the lyrical oratory style of Southern Black preachers, and the abstract sociological rhetoric of Marxist-Leninist activists. The wide use of dialects offers a panoramic picture of American speech spanning all races and socioeconomic statuses.
In addition to the diversity of speech, Ellison’s writing also displays a frequent movement between realism and surrealism. Invisible Man contains many scenes with conventional descriptions and dialogue. But it also contains many scenes full of dense language that can obscure what is really happening. For instance, the conventional scenes at Liberty Paints in chapter 10 give way to the highly surreal scenes at the hospital in chapter 11. Ellison’s jazzlike movement between realism and surrealism contributes to his depiction of the complexity of American life in the twentieth century.