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The narrator prepares to interview for jobs. He goes out in the morning to offices of the men to whom his letters are addressed. Each time he gets to an office, he is met by a secretary. His letter is taken and he is told he will be written a letter of response. Walking down the street, he begins to wonder about the white in New York. He eats next to them and rides the subway with them. They do not seem to have an air of too much self-importance, and they apologize whenever they bump into him. Yet he feels certain they do not acknowledge him in their politeness. Their reactions are mechanical, for he is invisible to them.
The narrator grows impatient, not hearing from the employers to whom he has given his letters. He only has one letter remaining. He does not send this last one, for he knows the man is out of town, and he suspects his letters rarely make it past the secretaries. He spends some time typing a perfect letter to the last man, requesting an appointment wherein he will pass on a message from Dr. Bledsoe. He waits anxiously and finally a letter from this man, Mr. Emerson, arrives.
In this chapter, Ellison provides the reader with more of the cultural differences between the North and South. While he does acknowledge that these whites eat, walk, and sit next to him (in contrast to strict Jim Crow laws of the South), he becomes acutely aware of something false and impersonal in the interaction. He realizes the truth of the fact that he is truly invisible to these people. Rather than the young narrator being treated as an equal or even as a lesser person, he is simply ignored. This general feeling of not being acknowledged by the people around him affects him in a personal sense. He realizes that the potential employers to whom he has delivered his letters ignore him in the same way.
That the narrator must emotionally endure people ignoring him is one issue, but that he must endure being ignored by economic institutions is quite a different level of severity, because he needs to be recognized in order to live. In hopes of being seen or heard, the narrator types out a perfect letter requesting a meeting with Mr. Emerson, the only employer who he has not called upon. The narrator feels relieved when he receives a response from him.