The Invisible Man As A Black American

1648 words - 7 pages

Invisible Man Final Essay
Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” focuses an African American living in Harlem, New York. The novelist does not name his protagonist for a couple of reasons. One reason is to show his confusion of personal identity and the other to show he is “invisible” to both himself and others. Thus he becomes every Black American who is in search of their own identity. He was a true representative of the black community in America who is socially and psychologically dominated everywhere. Blacks in the early 1900’s were excluded from society. They were ignored for their existence, invisible to prejudice eyes. For their only way to be accepted was to forge an identity and create an illusion to satisfy those eyes. The narrator is invisible to others because he is seen by stereotypes rather than his true identity. He takes on several identities to find acceptance from his peers, but eventually realizes he has no place to fit in.
His journey to self realization begins from his expulsion from Norton’s institution. The letters of recommendation given by the authority proves to be deceptive. He blindly believes the letters will offer him opportunities, but realizes he has been betrayed. His faith was shattered when he least expected it. His destiny continues after he joins a paint factory. The fight with his fellow worker results in his hospitalization. He is reborn, as a new man with a new purpose after being betrayed.
The novel is a severe social criticism which aims at an effective social reform. The race riots led by Ras the Destroyer, and the Brotherhood is at war. The narrator is unsure of which side to choose. Regardless of which side he chooses, he will be exploited and disposed of. It is for this very reason he is invisible in the eyes of his peers and the world itself. He hasn’t come with his own unique identity, but rather the identity that others want him to have. Having been so caught up in pleasing others he leaves himself unhappy.
An example of the narrator’s invisibility is his belief that he is nothing without light. “Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as ... well; and to be unaware of one's form is to live a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility.” (Pg. 6) This quote suggests that invisibility is part of the narrator’s identity. “Twenty years” represents the long amount of time it took for him to realize his invisibility. Having experiences with various people made him see his insignificance. It is “light” that makes him noticeable. The quote is both literal and metaphorical. It’s literal in a sense that he has 1,369 light bulbs in his room, and that “light” makes the unseen “seen”. It’s metaphorical because light represents knowledge and realization. Having been betrayed at every turn in his life he realizes it’s not a nightmare. The light reinforces the fact that he is indeed living in a harsh reality. A reality where blacks are...

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