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Invisible Essay: An Essay About Character And Self Identity In The Context Of The "Invisible Man" By Ralph Ellison.

3912 words - 16 pages

Identity in America today is both a diverse and complicated subject matter; Within such an individualistic society with so many people from every walk of life, the name we choose to present ourselves to the outside world often represents a large segment and a defining moment of who we are and how we came to be (at out present state of mind). The name one selects will also play a large role in how society chooses to characterize and classify you. A question that I often struggle with regarding my own personal character can be broken down into a question of nature versus nurture. How much of my character has been defined by my life experience and what percentage of it is biologically predetermined the day I was born. I wonder whether I have the ability to define myself, or if my environment is the ultimate factor, as if I were a pinball bouncing through a machine. Further, if an individual is continually and repeatedly broken down by society, physically or especially emotionally, at what point does this individual suffer a collapse of identity; not knowing whom he or she is and feeling unnoticed by the world. Ralph Waldo Ellison wrote a novel which powerfully and eloquently attacks this subject. Within, The Invisible Man, we the readers, are immediately presented with an unnamed character who feels metaphorically blind to society, but nonetheless portrays the hero of the novel, representative of not only intelligent African-Americans, but all of us who at some point in our lives have experienced an overwhelming sense of anonymity in our increasingly modern world.
In order to accurately analyze the message within "The Invisible Man", it is important to define the parameters within which I will be working, for it is very easy to fall astray when dealing with intricate subject matter. There are differences, for example, between assimilation and acculturation very much like the distinctions between identity and culture. Assimilation is the process by which Immigrants come to call themselves American. When is it that people who move to this country from abroad begin to call themselves Americans? One popularized theory of how this process takes place is that of the "melting pot." This is a reference to an ever-evolving America made up of all different backgrounds, tastes, and cultures. With each new addition into the "pot," the "taste" changes, thus creating a new synthesis of America. Our country thus becomes a giant conglomerate consisting of different individuals of different backgrounds. Additionally, there are alternative theories of assimilation including the transmuting pot, cultural pluralism (mixed salad), and the dialectic of the generations. The transmuting pot involves the "melting" of individuals into pre-existing molds. This transforms the individual into the way "we" want them, therefore marking this theory as the capacity of a country to alter an immigrant. Further, the mixed salad theory of hyphenated Americanism...

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