Themes Of Honor And Shame In Invisible Man

1366 words - 5 pages

EXECUTE SHAME GENTLY

Invisible Man is a novel by Ralph Ellison, addressing many social and moral issues regarding African-American identity, including the inside of the interaction between the white and the black. His novel was written in a time, that black people were treated like degraded livings by the white in the Southern America and his main character is chosen from that region. In this figurative novel he meets many people during his trip to the North, where the black is allowed more freedom. As a character, he is not complex, he is even naïve. Yet, Ellison’s narration is successful enough to show that he improves as he makes radical decisions about his life at the end of the book.

The nameless narrator is a young black person, who attends his college regularly. He follows certain directions to lead a normal life. Yet, his life has to diverge from what it is as he makes a huge mistake, which can not be forgiven by the Headmaster, Dr. Bledsoe. Mr. Norton, one of the trustees, is chauffeured by the narrator and in the trip they take together, the narrator shows him the places, where the real life that blacks have is obvious. Raged at this, Dr. Bledsoe’s reaction towards the naïve narrator is harsh and he is sent away from the college. The events have key points to them in terms of how the characters choose to behave under certain conditions. These conditions are mostly related to honor and shame, pride and humiliation, ambition to take over and passivity.

Dr. Bledsoe is a black person and the Headmaster of the College. For the analysis of his character and his role, the understanding of the college should be complete and clear. It is an education institute, founded by white people in the name of educating the black and giving them the opportunity to the way of enlightenment. However, it is not there for that reason. White people’s idea of educating black is surrounded by abasement. What is seen on the surface that the college tries to achieve is not what is beneath. The narrator realizes this when he has to talk to Dr. Bledsoe after his misdeeds. Dr. Bledsoe’s speech, although mostly reprimanding, gives clues about many moral issues, which the people experiencing the racism and division of races come across. “Please him? And here you are a junior in college! Why, the dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to please a white man is to tell him a lie!” (pg.139) “My God, boy! You're black and living in the South—did you forget how to lie?" These two sentences, owned by Dr. Bledsoe suggest that the boy should lie to hide the inconvenient truth to Mr. Norton. It brings a question of ethics, along with honor. “Is a person who lies honorable?” “Is lying permissible in this case?” The investigation and the answers to these questions will make the understanding of honor clearer. “Negroes don't control this school or much of anything else—haven't you learned even that? No, sir, they don't control this school,...

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