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Light And Truth In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

986 words - 4 pages

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man tells of one man's realizations of the world. This man, the invisible man, comes to realize through experience what the world is really like. He realizes that there is illusion and there is reality, and reality is seen through light. The Invisible Man says, "Nothing, storm or flood, must get in the way of our need for light and ever more and brighter light. The truth is the light and light is the truth" (7). Ellison uses light as a symbol for this truth, or reality of the world, along with contrasts between dark/light and black/white to help show the invisible man's evolving understanding of the concept that the people of the world need to be shown their true ways. The invisible man becomes aware of the world's truth through time and only then is he able to fully understand the world in which he lives.

The invisible man first starts to undergo realizations of reality after his expulsion from the college and his arrival in New York. Here he gains his first employment at Liberty Paints. His job consists of mixing pitch black paint with white paint to form the company's "Optic White" paint. The paint itself provides a symbol for the world in which the invisible man is living. The society tries to assimilate the black culture (black paint) into the white culture (white paint) creating in the end an "Optic White" solution where the blacks have conformed to the whites. The invisible man notes how the black drops spread out on the white paint saying, "I measured the glistening black drops, seeing them settle upon the surface and become blacker still, spreading suddenly out to the edges" (200). This correlates to blacks spreading in society, only to be "mixed-in" to form a white solution. The invisible man accidentally begins to use paint thinner in place of the black drops and soon the solution is no longer a thick, white paint, but instead a thin gray-like substance. Once again, Ellison alludes to society, only this time the blacks are not absorbed, but instead mixed evenly. The result is not a white culture, but a mixed, gray culture. The boss, Kimbro, becomes outraged at the mistake telling the invisible man, "you trying to sabotage the company? That stuff wouldn't work in a million years" (204). Kimbro, one of the leaders of the company, can be compared to a leader of society. He believes that the mixing of black and white, without a result of white can only lead to "sabotage." For this crime, Kimbro sends the Invisible Man to work as an assistant in a boiler room. Essentially, Kimbro has placed the Invisible Man back into darkness. With its location in the basement, the boiler room can hide one from the light, or truth, of the real world.

The Invisible Man's education continues with his induction in the Brotherhood...

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