The Invisible Man And Self Discovery English Literature Essay

Invisible man is a famous twentieth century novel compiled by Ralph Waldo Ellison and was published in the year 1952. It won him the American National Book Award in the year 1953. Invisible Man is one of the classic novels of the African-American experience; additionally it is one of the perfect novels for everyone Americans. The primary protagonist of the novel is metaphorically invisible, everywhere he goes because he is black and it depicts his struggle to assert and prove himself visible. However in the finish the hero of this novel realizes that his invisibility can be sometimes benefits to him and so he stopped complaining or protesting. "I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen" (Ellison). The protagonist is calmer and wiser after realizing and accepting the actual fact that all through his struggles throughout the novel, he has been invisible and unappreciated. Therefore it is true that invisibility is the main element to self-discovery and freedom. "I am not only invisible, but formless as. . . well; also to be unaware of one's form is to have a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, didn't become alive until I discovered my invisibility" (Ellison).

In the novel Invisible man, the narrator represents the perfect exemplory case of "mis-educated Negro", taught to despise his own people where he learned nothing about the many of black Americans and he has no idea of black history. Actually the narrator would rather distance himself from uneducated Southern blacks for he felt superior to them. That is due to the education which he received which asserted white supremacy over blacks. Sadly he didn't realize that he is still viewed as inferior and invisible to the whites no matter how much education he receives. In the very beginning of the novel the narrator mentioned that his grandfather called himself a traitor that your narrator could not understand the hidden message in it because he still did not realize his invisibility. However his journey to self realization that he's indeed invisible started when the narrator was called to provide his senior high school graduation speech at a gathering of the town's important white citizens. Before could actually give his speech, he and his friends were made part of entertainment for the drunken white men. These were blindfolded and were designed to fight in a boxing match (a battle royal) against each other. After the battle he was presented with the permission to speak, yet nobody paid attention to the narrator because to them he's invisible. "I spoke louder regardless of the pain. But nonetheless they talked and they laughed, as if deaf with cotton in dirty ears" (Ellison 30). This internal struggle because of confusion and the shortcoming to grasp that he's invisible to them made the narrator confused and trapped within his uncertainty. Yet he continued and accepts in the philosophy of Booker T. Washington, that blacks can accomplish success through education and industry for he previously obtained a scholarship to the state college or university for Negroes. Thus we recognize that the narrator will not realize that he's invisible and try to make himself heard during his speech which only brought him humiliation. He followed their orders and continued in battle royal, which proves that he previously not found his true identity but where modeled by others. If he did realize his invisibility, he might have been liberated from the meanness of the white men.

In college, the narrator continues his search for acceptance and identity and was eager to impress Mr. Norton one of the trustees of the university by becoming his chauffer. But things did not go so well after Mr. Norton paid attention to Jim Trueblood's incestuous encounter along with his daughter in his vacation cabin. Mr. Norton felt dizzy and ordered the narrator to get him a whiskey and fainted. The narrator rushed to the nearest bar called the Golden Day where Mr. Norton was propositioned with a prostitute, snubbed with a veteran, and overwhelmed by war veterans who filled the bar. Thus the president of the faculty, Dr. Bledsoe expelled the narrator after revealing true identity as greedy and opportunist. Dr. Bledsoe even emphasized the idea that the narrator is invisible "You're nobody, son. You don't exist-can't the truth is that?" (Ellison 143). So, it is proven that the greater the protagonist tries to assert him visible the greater he gets trap in troubles and loses his freedom. Unlike the narrator who allows others to ascertain his destiny, "Trueblood is an existential hero who takes control of his life and decides his own faith and destiny. Through conscious creation of art, specifically by singing the blues and thereby keeping himself in touch with his folk tradition, Trueblood discovers and reaffirms his identity and gains the strength to be on along with his life by facing up to his past mistakes and future responsibilities" (Savery). So Trueblood is free for he accepts and apprehends his identity and moves on in life. But the narrator refuses to accept the truth that he is invisible and so loses his self and freedom.

After getting expelled, the narrator goes to Harlem to consider employment with the recommendation letters he received from Bledsoe. Then he realized that he had not been important to anyone which is not entirely obvious to everyone. "I closed my eyes, holding desperately to my lapel, the automobile roared and spayed pressing me hard against her, but when I took a furtive glance around no one was playing the slightest attention, As well as she seemed lost in her own thoughts" (Ellison 158). In Harlem, the narrator stops at a drugstore to possess breakfast and he was upset with counterman's suggestion, "the special"-pork chop, grits, eggs, biscuits and coffee. It is because he didn't desire to be recognized as a black man from the south. Instead he orders orange juice, toast and coffee, which only proves his denial of his identity that he is indeed black and invisible. Finally he ended up obtaining a job in Liberty Paints after finding out that his recommendation letters from Bledsoe tells recipient to not help the narrator. Alternatively in Liberty Paints, "he makes white paint, is recognised incorrectly as a fink (a hired strike-breaker), then mistaken for a unionist, and then is accidentally inflated and used as a lab rat in the business hospital" (Shmoop Editorial Team). In the entire situation the narrator realized that he is indeed invisible. Nobody looked after him. He had been played and manipulated because of his skin colour and racial prejudice. The very next day, after moving to Mary's house from the Men's House, the narrator buys a hot buttered yam from a street vendor and eats it greedily. No more feeling forced or shameful to cover up his identity as a southern black by denying his love for certain foods, the narrator found profound sense of profound freedom "I yam what I yam" (Ellison 266). It is therefore evident that after the narrator accepts that he's a southern black (true identity) which is invisible, he discovered that he's liberated and felt ease in his heart.

Next the narrator results in a scene of eviction where two white men were throwing off belongings of an unhealthy old black couple who could not pay for their apartment. Overcome by sentiment, the narrator launches an emotional speech on dispossession to come back their belongings. After hearing his speech a guy called Brother Jack invited the narrator to become listed on the Brotherhood for he admired the narrator's speech. Because the narrator had no money to pay rental for Mary, he left and joined the Brotherhood. He believed that he could build his identity there. " The Invisible Man's ensuing help the Brotherhood involves a complete makeover: a new name, new clothing, and a fresh situation. It appears to transform him into a visible presence on the planet" (Rosengarten). The narrator became famous after joining the Brotherhood. He felt wanted, appreciated, happy but almost all of all visible. Sadly the new visibility didn't last. The narrator realized he was just a puppet utilized by the Brotherhood to satisfy their needs. When he gave speeches, they accuse him to be opportunist. Inside the novel, after Brother Clifton was brutally murdered by white policemen, everything started out to unravel for the narrator. In a meeting after Clifton's funeral, the members of Brotherhood wished to discipline the narrator for encouraging a revolutionary activity on the centering of race rather than class. They hated the narrator for paying importance on individual than as a group. In the course of a emotional meeting, "Brother Jack's false eye pops out and it serves as a talisman for the Invisible Man's growing realization that he is, in fact, unseen by the Brotherhood"(Rosengarten).

So the narrator left the Brotherhood and he became invisible again. Invisibility in our protagonist is completed when he disguised himself by donning a wide hat and dark glasses to avoid attack by those opposed to the Brotherhood. He was commonly mistaken to be known as Rinehart. Rinehart presents the narrator with the paradox of invisibility, the main one who is obvious is readily recognised incorrectly as the one who's not rather than is at this narrative was the narrator made visible. "If dark glasses and a white hat could blot out my identity so quickly, who actually was who?" (Ellison 493). Thus it holds true that since he made himself invisible and understand he is indeed invisible, he did escape those who wanted to kill him. By becoming invisible by wearing a disguise he freed himself from the hypocritical Brotherhood. At this point in the narrators life, he understood that he is unseen by all which he had been a fool by following others to prove his visibility when he must have accepted his own true identity. After dropping his disguise, he encounters Ras the Exhorter who wished to hang the narrator. The narrator tried to argue but he realized at that time, that he was invisible to them as well. "I stood there, realizing that by dying, that by being hanged by Ras upon this street in this destructive night, I'd perhaps move them one fraction of the bloody step closer to a definition of who they were and of what I was and have been. But the definition could have been too narrow; I was invisible, and hanging would not bring me to visibility, even to their eyes, given that they wanted my death not for myself alone but also for the chase I'd been on all my entire life; because of the way I'd run, been run, chased, operated, purged- although to a great extent I possibly could did nothing else, given their blindness (didn't they tolerate both Rinehart and Bledsoe?) and my invisibility. And that I, just a little black man with an assumed name should die because a huge black man in his hatred and confusion over the type of possible that seemed controlled solely by white men whom I knew to be as blind as he, was just too much, too outrageously absurd. And I knew that it was better to live out one's own absurdity than to die for that of others, whether for Ras's or Jack's" (Ellison 559). The narrator ran as fast as he could to flee death for he understood it is useless to talk justice to the people who were blind fools. Realizing his invisibility certainly helped him discover himself, attain freedom from mean people and escape death.

In conclusion, it is justified that the narrator's invisibility is the main element to self discovery and freedom. Discovering his invisibility the narrator helps it be his asset to maintain a hideout where he can live rent-free, nobody recognizes or threaten him and acquire free electricity from Monopolated Light & Power (white power source) to fill his "hole" with light. He also enjoys his favorite music the blues and gets the freedom to think about his past. This helps the narrator to understand himself and mistakes so that whenever he plans to leave his hole, he might act better and plan wiser. Furthermore he realized that his invisibility is not predicated on external outlook but caused by people failing to see with the "inner eyes" (Ellison 3). Thus this new found freedom due to understanding his invisibility, made the narrator become wiser as well.

Work Cited

Rosengarten, Richard. "Citizenship and Invisibility: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Race, and Democratic Prospects". The University of Chicago Divinity School. 9 April 2010

"Stages of Visibility in Invisible Man. " 123HelpMe. com. 10 Apr 2010


Shmoop Editorial Team. "Invisible Man Summary. " Shmoop. com. Shmoop University, Inc. , 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 11 Apr 2010.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisble Man. USA: Penguin Books, 1952.

Savery, Pancho. "Not like an arrow, but a boomerang": Ellison's Existential Blues. 1989.

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