Author Ralph Ellison, examines the concept of blindness and clear-sighted vision in “Invisible Man” in regards to race. The characters can be broken down into two categories: sightless or clear-sighted. The category and characters expand off of their predetermined category and positively affect the growth of the narrator.
Ellison acknowledges the characters in “Invisible Man” that intentionally (or unintentionally) refuse to acknowledge the African American community in regards to social inequalities and racial advancements. According to the two character categories, race does not factor into the characters blindness. The characters that fit into the sightless spectrum are Dr. Bledsoe, Mr. Norton, the narrator’s grandfather, Jim Trueblood, Reverend Barbee, young Mr. Emerson, Lucius Brockway, Brother Jack, Emma, and Brother Westrum. The characters listed above are sightless because their actions are led by self-interest and power.
…I control it [the college]. I’s big and black and I say ‘Yes, suh’ as loudly as any burrhead when it’s convenient, but I’m still the king down here. I don’t care how much it appears otherwise. Power doesn’t have to show off. Power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting and self-stopping, self-warming and self-justifying. When you have it, you know it. Let the Negroes snicker and the crackers laugh! Those are the facts, son. The only ones I even pretend to please are big white folk, and even those I control more than they control me. This is a power set-up, son, and I’m at the controls (Ellison 142).
Dr. Bledsoe confirms he is a man that wears a mask. He covers his true intentions by appearing to be a lowly-man at the beck and call of the wealthy white founders.
Dr. Bledsoe is illuminating the all blind character’s need for power. Despite encouraging the advancement of his race as a whole, Dr. Bledsoe is more concerned with retaining his power. The college president describes his true intentions to the narrator by stating, “…I’ll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am” (Ellison 143). He openly admits that he will not act on the behalf of the betterment of the African American community. He finds his position more fulfilling and would prefer to see the demise of his race than to take action. Dr. Bledsoe’s intentions are parallel to the blind characters. They would rather have the majority of the African American community remain invisible.
Another blind character, Lucius Brockway, an African American displays his blindness discouraging the African American union. Brockway is concerned about the safety of his job, and would rather start a conflict with the black union than see the advancement of African Americans in the work force. Brockway argues to the narrator:
That damn union! They after my job! I know they after my job. For one of them damn unions is like we was to bite the hand of the man who teached us to bathe in a bathtub…them young colored...