Ellison's Invisible Man Essay

1304 words - 5 pages

Written in a brilliant way, Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” captures the attention of the reader for its multi-layered perfection. The novel focuses an African American living in Harlem, New York. The novelist does not name his protagonist for a couple of reasons. One reason is to show his confusion of personal identity and the other to show he is “invisible”. Thus he becomes every Black American who is in search of their own identity. He is a true representative of the black community in America who is socially and psychologically dominated everywhere. The narrator is invisible to others because he is seen by the stereotypes rather than his true identity. He takes on several identities to find acceptance from his peers, but eventually realizes he has no place to fit in.
The event leading to the expulsion of the narrator from his institution changes his fate forever. The letters of recommendation given by the authority proves to be deceptive. He “blindly believes the letters will offer him opportunities, but realizes he has been betrayed. His destiny continues after he joins a paint factory. The fight with his fellow worker results in his hospitalization. He is reborn, as a new man with a new purpose after being betrayed.
The wandering of the narrator and his “interesting invisibility” makes the novel really a page turner. The novel is a severe social criticism which aims at an effective social reform. The race Riots led by Ras the Destroyer, and the Brotherhood is at war. The narrator is unsure of which side to choose. Regardless of which side he chooses, he will be exploited and disposed of. It is for this very reason he is invisible in the eyes of his peers and the world itself. He hasn’t come with his own unique identity, but rather the identity that others want him to have. Having been so caught up in pleasing others he leaves himself unhappy.
An example of the narrator’s invisibility is his belief that he is nothing without light. “Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as ... well; and to be unaware of one's form is to live a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility.” (Pg. 6) This quote suggests that invisibility is part of the narrator’s identity. “Twenty years” represents the long amount of time it took for him to realize his invisibility. Having experiences with various people made him see his insignificance. It is “light” that makes him noticeable.
The quote is both literal and metaphorical. It’s Literal in a sense that he has 1,369 light bulbs in his room, and metaphorical that “light” makes the unseen “seen”. His desire to be seen for who he genuinely is makes him resort to stealing light. For it is light that makes him believe his existence is real, that he is not a thought roaming the city of Harlem. When he says “to be unaware of one's form is to live a death” (6) shows that if one doesn’t know who they truly are, they are dead. The dead...

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