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Ralf Ellison's The Invisible Man Essay

2514 words - 11 pages

At the time the Invisible Man was published segregation was in full force in many parts of America, making certain scenes of the novel obscene and outlandish (Holland 34). To his peers Ellison was a thinker as well as writer he had the capability of repairing automobiles and electronic devices; “He had a particular passion for high quality audio equipment, and found a hobby in building and customizing stereo systems.” (LitCharts 3) After writing the Invisible Man Ellison found it to be an arduous task to replicate the success of the Invisible Man, “Which immediately was considered a classic”(Brennan). Ellison made it is life mission to write a successful second novel, but he could not compete with the success of the Invisible Man. “When I discover who I and I’ll be free” (Ellison 2). The Invisible man is about a young men journey through society. Ellison keeps the protagonist nameless, throughout the book the young man is often referred to as “IM,” Ellison uses motifs throughout the book to help convey different underlying messages presented to IM. The motifs of power and self-interest, invisibility, and race help establish the stubble to overcome society’s oppression of minority groups.
Ellison references the works of African American literature in the Invisible Man. By using allusions from the works of “Fredrick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, and political speeches of black revolutionaries like Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Address”(Anelli 3). The work of iconic jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith are a reference throughout the novel (Anelli 3). Ellison wrote the Invisible Man structurally, and stylistically in a manner that makes jazz music itself is a central theme to the whole novel. The young naive and extraordinary protagonist “IM” develops moral, psychological, and intellectual awareness through a series of experiences that challenge his assumptions about the world while teaching him painful lessons (Anelli 4). Other novels like in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye are examples of the protagonist going through the same trials and tribulations (Kirkland 2001). There are similarities found between the protagonist in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and the protagonist in the Invisible Man “Ellison attributes the influence of the novel to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn” (LitCharts 4).
Ellison wrote the novel shortly after America’s victory in World War II. The postwar era is traditionally a boom time in American history, “[where] many men [were] disillusioned by the experience of the war, which is reflected by the novel’s mental patients” (LitCharts 4). Furthermore, the late 1940’s and early 1950’s was the time of extensive discrimination against African Americans’ in the deep south. In Invisible Man, race is a constant and perpetual factor. The narrator often encounters the idea of race and racism through the perspicacity of others. “For instance his experiences in the battle...

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