Invisibility in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Essay

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Most commonly in literature, the concept of invisibility is taken to the extreme effect of being physically transparent and unseen by anyone. In popular media, the hero is also often portrayed as being invisible, going behind the enemy's back to complete his or her mission. In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, this view of invisibility is reversed; rather than being invisible and getting noticed, a man is in plain sight of everyone- however, due to a slew of stereotypes and prejudices, nobody recognizes what he accomplishes. Beginning his journey as a man who stays out of the way by doing what he is told, he is quickly forced to leave and go somewhere else to “find” himself. This change puts him into a position into which can be more relatable to the more common concept of invisibility, one who fights for fairer rights with still no one taking notice of him. Our nameless hero (hereinafter referred to as “the narrator”) takes us on a journey that extends the concepts of both an invisible pacifist and aggressor.
In the beginning, the narrator is an anxious, eager prospective college student who only wishes to please his superiors and do as they ask. He goes to the town hall in order to give a speech and is subsequently pressured into participating in the “battle royal” to be fought by some of his schoolmates (also black) for the white men’s entertainment. This scene is one of the many that serve as metaphoric and symbolic representations of invisibility and the related theme of blindness. Walton Muyumba, a literary critic, agrees with this and states that “Ellison blindfolds the boys to play his themes of blindness and invisibility in the context of white viewership” (Walton Muyumba 60). In short, the blindfolds serve as a symbol for ...

... middle of paper ... of events that make him see that he is invisible. Ralph Ellison’s use of invisibility helps his attempt to illustrate society’s imperfections. As is evident by the massive critical acclaim and hailing as a masterpiece, he was successful.

Works Cited

Auden, W. H. "The Unknown Citizen." Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1995. Print.
Muyumba, W. (2009), ‘Black is, Black Ain’t: Violence, Blacks Masculinity and the Novel as Democratic Symbol’. In Muyumba, W. (2009) The Shadow and the Act: Black Intellectual Practice, Jazz Improvisation, and Philosophical Pragmatism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 49-89.
"Racism as an Obstacle to Individual Identity." Term Paper on Racism as an Obstacle to Individual Identity with 1699 Words., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2013

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