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“I Am Invisible”: The Invisible Man A Novel About Sight

1812 words - 8 pages

When it comes to individuals the simplest way to remain visible throughout life is by the use of a name to define who one is. Without a name to be called one becomes a face, then a face in the crowd, then a face that is barely recognizable, until there is no longer a distinguishment. Ralf Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, purposely leaves the storyteller nameless in the novel for that sole purpose, “’What’s his name?’ The boy read my name off a card” (Ellison 198). Ellison painstakingly gets the reader excited in anticipation that the narrator will finally be unrevealed. The reader is constantly hoping to fill their desire to be able to create a connection with the raconteur by knowing his ...view middle of the document...

The man in the beginning of the novel is angry and unstable, “I butted him again and again until he went down heavily, on his knees profusely bleeding. I kicked him repeatedly, in a frenzy because he still uttered insults though his lips were frothy with blood. Oh yes, I kicked him! And in outrage I got out my knife and prepared to slit his throat” (Ellison 4). This violent action was not always the ways of the narrator of the story. His life is proven to be an uphill struggle. In fact, during the duration in which he is writing the novel in a room illuminated by 1,369 light bulbs (Ellison 13). The anonymous life of the narrator, crazy or sane, is one the developed over time to create a man who is no longer visible.
In the first chapters, the reader is introduced to a reoccurring haunting dream the narrator has where his grandfather is warning him of the unknown future, “’Read it,’ my grandfather said. ‘Out loud!’ ‘To Whom it May Concern,’ I intoned. ‘Keep This… Boy Running’” (Ellison 33). The narrator, as do countless readers, does not pick up on the true meaning. The narrator begins to lose his invisibility here as a result of this message, this dark, twisted unclear message, which is a warning sign of chasing an impossible dream. This is the first stage of invisibility losing one’s ambition. “’Keep This… Boy Running’” a reoccurring moment alluding to the impossible challenge of white’s staying white while black’s are committed to become white. A constant chase of battle and equality.
The dream of the narrator, like the multitude of African-American’s growing up in the burdensome 1930s and 40s, is equality: to been seen as an equal. However, when the topic of impartially is first introduced the dream is shown quickly dying, “’You sure that about ‘equality’ was a mistake?’ ‘Oh, yes, sir,’ I said. ‘I was swallowing blood’” (Ellison 31). That pivotal conversation about blood representing an ambitious dream that more than likely will kill the narrator in some way is the foundation for denying ambition, “an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment” (“Ambition”).
Years later, the narrator remembers his dream and once again tries to achieve them. This time in Harlem, New York after being expelled from school. A body of African-American’s gather together in disgust as an elderly couple is forcefully removed from their home. The narrator appalled by this action the white police officers are overseeing starts preaching to the body, “’Eighty-seven years and dispossessed of what? They ain’t got nothing, they caint get nothing, they never had nothing’” (Ellison 279). During this speech the narrator appears to have a clear, firm understanding of the world that he is apart of. A world where race is a defining line, but the narrator feels that enough is enough. Soon enough he has convinced those around him to clean up the streets...

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