The Invisible Man, By Ralph Ellison

1656 words - 7 pages

How do we reconcile personal freedom with the need to abide by the interests of society? Should we celebrate individuality or the sacrifice thereof? Or rather, should the individual be subjected to the masses, or should the masses be subjected to the individual? (Allen 144). A myriad of writers have attempted to answer these questions to different ends. In A Clockwork Orange and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Burgess and Kesey reach similar conclusions by employing insane characters to discuss the negative influences society has on the individual; in both stories, characters must endure the mind-altering treatments of morally ambiguous scientists in order to better “fit” into society. The authors both romanticize misfits who remain untarnished by their corrupt peers. Ralph Ellison echoes these sentiments in his The Invisible Man, in which he advocates for individual freedom and personal responsibility instead of the submission to authority. His perspective is best illustrated through an analysis of existentialist philosophy as it relates absurdism in his novel. The narrator in the Invisible Man grapples with finding his place in society until he learns to accept the intrinsic absurdities of life and learns to embrace the freedom that accompanies that realization.
Ellison reasons that, in light of the innate absurdity and purposelessness of life, people must strive for individuality. Just before the narrator listens to Reverend Barbee’s sermon, he observes, “And I remember too, how we confronted those others, those who had set me there in this Eden … who trailed their words to us through blood and violence and ridicule and condescension with drawling smiles, and who exhorted and threatened, intimidated with innocent words and they described to us the limitations of our lives and the vast boldness of our aspirations, the staggering folly of our impatience to rise even higher” (Ellison 112).

Ellison sarcastically critiques the role traditional religion plays in society; to him, religion is an agent of manipulation used to impose certain values on others. In effect, society unwittingly allows the few to command the many, which inevitably incites corruption and discourages individuality. Ellison contrasts “condescension” with “smiles” and “intimidated” with “innocent” in order to show the discrepancy between religious doctrine and the actions of religious leaders. Instead of uplifting people, the leaders “innocently” discourage them from seeking a higher existence. They effectually undermine the religion they profess by ignoring its values when it comes to their own behavior. Ellison’s clearly anti-religious sentiment is mirrored in existentialist philosophy. Kierkegaard regarded a belief in religion as absurd, while other existentialists criticize religion as a fantasy used to satisfy people’s need to feel loved ("Existentialism and the Absurd { Philosophy Index }"). Rousseau declared, “Christianity preaches only servitude and dependence,”...

Find Another Essay On The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Essay

1931 words - 8 pages ; he assumes that the Brotherhood works for racial equality. The narrator sees that Brother Jacks is half blind when his eye pops out. The narrator realizes that he has been blind to the real motives of the Brotherhood. At first he is blind to the Brotherhood but then he gains insight into the Brotherhood’s real motives. “He’ll do your bidding, and for that his blindness is his chief asset” (95). Works Cited Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage-Random House, 1995. Print.

Symbolism in "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison

878 words - 4 pages Progress Report #2?Invisible Man? by Ralph Ellison is scattered with symbolism. Especially the first scene, which is widely known as the ?Battle Royal.? This is an important section in the novel, for the reader is introduced to the Invisible Man as someone who is not listened to by most, interrupted by many and instructed to know his place at all times.From the very beginning of the novel the narrator values his education. His education first

Symbolism in Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

1602 words - 6 pages When looking into the inner workings of a machine, one does not see each individual gear as being separate, but as an essential part of a larger system. The cogs on the gear move in a way that losing one would cause the entire machine to fail. This concept of mechanics lays the foundation to many issues touched on in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The machine imagery comes through in two conversations with men that the narrator may idolize

Commentary on Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

635 words - 3 pages Ralph Ellison immediately reveals a message in the initial chapter of his piece Invisible Man that communicates through a simple allegory, infused with symbolism. The excerpt, “Battle Royal,” illustrates an unidentified, young, African American character who cleverly seeks to coexist in the white man’s world. However, while the young adult assumes he is “[overcoming] ‘em with yeses, and [undermining] ‘em with grins” (227), the “lily-white men

True Identity in The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

1039 words - 4 pages He is not Your Pinocchio Anymore: The Brief Look into the Narrator’s Self-Realization In the novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison utilizes the motif of paper to demonstrate the journey the narrator goes through to realize his true identity. By using this motif, the narrator’s identity is revealed in various stages over the course of the novel. In the beginning of the novel, paper seems similar to a beacon of hope; shining light on all the

Aesthetics of Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

1204 words - 5 pages Ralph Ellison painstakingly crafted a separate world in Invisible Man , a novel that succeeds because it is an intricate aesthetic creation -- humane, compassionate, and yet gloriously devoid of a moral. Social comment is neither the aim nor the drive of art, and Ellison did not attempt to document a plight. He created a place where race is reflected and distorted, where pithy generalities are dismissed, where personal and aesthetic prisms

Symbols in the Briefcase in “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

792 words - 3 pages Towards the end of the book “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the narrator who remains unnamed thought the entire book, risks his life to save a briefcase filled with seemingly random assorted items. But later in the book the narrator is forced to burn the items in his briefcase in order to find his way out of a sewer he gets stuck in. Closer reading reveals that the items in his briefcase are more than random assorted items, but instead are

The Context of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

1223 words - 5 pages The Context of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Civil Rights began with the ending of the American Civil war. In September of 1862 President Abraham Lincoln freed all slaves in the United States when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. “This action had little immediate effect, since it was impossible for the Federal government to implement it in those regions where it actually applied--namely the states in rebellion that

Critical Reading: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

1183 words - 5 pages American identity and mine…” Our narrator is an intellectual feminine immigrant who’s self image allows her to see that she is in fact the very same as the men; she is an American. The very idea of being an ‘American’ relates directly to immigration; the United States of America was founded by immigrants exactly like the narrator; the “beautiful absurdity” is the blindness of the men about who they truly are when she already knows “…and knowing now who I was and where I was and knowing too that I no longer had to run…”. She is in a safe place hidden from the Ras’s and the Jack’s, right now she is invisible.

Racism in "The Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison

1247 words - 5 pages Invisible Man is a story told through the eyes of the narrator, a Black man struggling in a White culture. The narrative starts during his college days where he works hard and earns respect from the administration. Dr. Bledsoe, the prominent Black administrator of his school, becomes his mentor. Dr. Bledsoe has achieved success in the White culture which becomes the goals which the narrator seeks to achieve. The narrator's hard work culminates

The Evolution of the Invisible Man in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

1327 words - 5 pages The Evolution of the Invisible Man in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison In everyone's life, there are growing experiences. People evolve not only physically as they get older but also ideologically. Perhaps they might become wiser or shrug off the trendy doctrines that may have tried to shape their destiny long ago. Ralph Ellison illustrates this struggle of change in Invisible Man. The novel begins with a naïve young, black man in the

Similar Essays

"The Invisible Man" By Ralph Ellison

841 words - 3 pages Racism in an imperfect culture reveals the intensity that drives the novel InvisibleMan, written by Ralph Ellison. From the harsh words of his fellow peers, the voice of the'invisible man' comes out. The narrator remains a voice and never emerges as an externaland quantifiable presence. This obscurity emphasizes his status as an "invisible man."He always tries to be someone he is not or copy the correct identity of a person. RalphEllison exposes

"The Invisible Man" By Ralph Ellison

2251 words - 9 pages In the novel, The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, written in 1952, a young black man's struggle to find an identity in a harsh and very manipulative society is exemplified. The narrator's experience and struggles are often expressed through the memory of his grandfather's words, the people he has come in contact with, and the places ha has been. During the course of his life, he has learned many valuable lessons, both about society and himself

Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison Essay

909 words - 4 pages Invisible Man is a book novel written by Ralph Ellison. The novel delves into various intellectual and social issues facing the African-Americans in the mid-twentieth century. Throughout the novel, the main character struggles a lot to find out who he is, and his place in the society. He undergoes various transformations, and notably is his transformation from blindness and lack of understanding in perceiving the society (Ellison 34).   In

Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison Essay

1502 words - 6 pages This essay discusses how interracial dating plays a big part in the book and focuses on how interracial dating has evolved from being a unspoken manner in American society to now being mainstream. The conclusion is kind of week so change it up a bit.Interracial relationships are evident in the 1947 novel Invisible Man by author Ralph Ellison. Interracial dating a taboo in American history, has drastically changed from the hate games that