The Narrator in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
The narrator in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man views himself as
invisible because he believes the world is full of blind men who
cannot see him for who is really is. In the beginning of the story,
the narrator is treated by white men as the stereotypical black male -
sex-hungry, poor and violent. These white men are completely blind to
what black men really are. However, as the novel progresses, the
narrator finds a way to remain invisible, yet take power from those
who previously held it. Later on, we find that the invisible man
eventually develops into a man capable of fighting stereotypes and
racism in a very visible way. Through this progression, the narrator
is able to beat away racist attitudes.
In chapter one, we are introduced to the narrator and quickly we see
that he is being dominated by white confines of racism and
stereotypes. The narrator starts by reminiscing about his class speech
during his high school graduation. The speech stressed submission as
the way for black Americans to advance in the social structure. The
speech was so well received that the town arranged for him to give the
speech in front of the town's most influential white leaders. In the
narrator's eyes, the white men are rewarding his submissive nature.
But the reader is presented with the truth of what is actually going
on when he arrives to meet these men. First, the white men bring out a
naked blond woman and force the black boys to look at the women. Some
become sexually aroused - playing on the stereotype of blacks being
hypersexual animals. After, the men force the black boys into a
"battle royal," where the narrator fights his other black classmates,
blindfolded. It is rather appropriate that the boys are blindfolded,
because it shows how the men view these boys. They don't see these
black men for who they are, rather as sub-humans, playthings of the
white race. Therefore, the black boys' true identities are "invisible"
to the white men, which is where the title of the book is derived. The
blindfolds also speak to how the black men cannot see the ulterior
motive these men have. On the surface, the white men seem to be on a
mission of goodwill, but the reader quickly sees that the boys are
supposed to conform to another kind of characteristic associated with
blacks - violence. The fight is an obvious allegory to why blacks are
so unsuccessful in trying to gain power. Instead of banding together
to fight for black rights, they are instead told by white men that the
enemies are other blacks, so the blacks end up fighting themselves.
The saying of "a divided house cannot stand" is particularly relevant
in this case because the house (the...