Now You See Me Essay

2034 words - 9 pages

The largest identifying factor that a person has is her appearance. When she looks in the mirror in the morning, she sees herself. On the surface the traits that identify her are shallow things: she has pinky-pale skin, coppery hair and dark eyes. However, those simple traits have a greater meaning, a greater symbolic: her skin tone and hair display her Irish roots, and her dark eyes come from her Italian father. She can then further delve into the meaning behind those identifying factors, the meaning behind those and so on, until her identity is something not even she fully understands. To strangers, her appearance is her identity. They are free to attach whatever cultural stereotype to that appearance, and she can’t fight back. However, the risk of being misidentified as an individual is arguably better than not being identified as individual at all. Identities feed off of perception. If things are perceived in groups, then the individual identity is lost. This the case in both Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, who, despite differences in nation, ethnicity, and time, use invisibility as a symbol for society’s inability to define an individual past her physical characteristics.
H.G. Wells and Ralph Ellison are two authors who overcame their differences in nation, time, and ethnicity to create novels that question how appearance contributes to the identity of an individual. H.G. Wells was born on the 21st of September 1866 in Bromley, Kent, England. When he was a young man, Wells moved to London and felt invisible in the large city, which inspired the invisibility in the novel (Beacham Group LLC). As a white man in the 1890s, Wells was not subject to any racial prejudice but he was poor and judged on his class. In contrast, Ralph Ellison was born on the 1st of March 1914 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He studied music at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama which was founded by Booker T. Washington an served as the inspiration for the college the narrator attends in the novel. Ellison left Tuskegee and moved to New York City where he at last settled in Harlem, like his character (Parrish). Ellison was influenced by the existentialists of his time and used their themes to write about the oppression and prejudice of African-Americans in America.
Although their titles only differ by an article, Invisible Man is entirely different than The Invisible Man. Ellison’s novel was published in 1952 and takes place in both the American South and New York City (Wang). It follows an unnamed young man who is invisible—not in the literal sense—but rather society refuses to see him. Flashing back, the novel begins when the narrator was young and living in a black community in the South. The reader follows him as he attends a college from which he is later expelled, and travels to New York to become a public speaker for a group known as “the Brotherhood” in Harlem. Violence and confusion ensue, driving the narrator into the...

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