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The Importance Of The Negro Bank In Invisible Man

766 words - 3 pages

 
   The early Americana coin bank which the narrator of Invisible Man discovers one morning in his room at Mary's house is a reflection of the narrator's state throughout much of the novel. The offensively exaggerated Negro figure provokes an instant hatred in the narrator due to the tolerance it suggests. However, the narrator becomes personally offended by the object because of the similarities it holds to himself. While smashing the pipes with the bank, he yells out to his neighbors who are banging on the pipes, "'Get rid of your cottonpatch ways! Act civilized!'" (320). Thus he associates the hatred he feels for the bank figure with his neighbors who are acting no less civilized than he is. He is not aware of his own "cottonpatch ways" it appears.

            In describing the bank, the narrator states that it is the kind of bank that flips coins from its hand into a large grinning mouth. In order to put money in the bank, one must feed the smiling, hungry Negro. At a point in the narrator's life where he has no money and has decided to join the Brotherhood out of a debt he owes, the bank's symbolism is simply too close to reality for him and he tries to destroy the self-mocking figure. He notes, "In my hand its expression seemed more of a strangulation than a grin. It was choking, filled to the throat with coins" (319).

            The quotation is especially interesting in light of the coins thrown at the battle royal earlier in the novel. The boys are made to grab for coins thrown on an electrified carpet. Like circus animals, they are electrically shocked every time they reach for the shiny gold in order to entertain the white audience. The narrator attempts to avoid the shocks but cannot help grabbing for the coins like the rest of the boys. The boys, in a sense, are being fed money by the men for amusement and are choked by racism. Furthermore, the narrator hungrily eats up the degradation they feed him. Even though the coins turn out to be artificial, he does not mind because of the scholarship the white men give him. In effect, he smiles like the bank when given the award, and runs out. As the text states, "My eyes filled with...

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