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Invisible Man Essay: Self-Identity in Invisible Man

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Self-Identity in Invisible Man

 
    In the novel, Invisible Man, the main character carries around a briefcase throughout the entire story. All of the possessions that he carries in that briefcase are mementos from learning experiences. Throughout the novel, the Invisible Man is searching for his identity and later discovers that his identity is in those items.

As the narrator is leaving Mary's house for the Brotherhood, he sees a Negro-doll bank in his room. He is angry that the doll is holding a sign that read, "Feed me."

"For a second I stopped, feeling hate charging up within me, then dashed over and grabbed it, suddenly as enraged by the tolerance of lack of discrimination, or whatever, that allowed Mary to keep such a self-mocking image around" (Ellison 319).

The shattering of the bank by the narrator symbolizes that he is rejecting the views of the "old Negro" and taking his own views on the subject. Part of his views is the conviction that colored people do not need to rely on whites for their survival. Often times one does not know his own viewpoint on a subject until he can reject one view. Another item that is stored in his briefcase is the broken chain link that Brother Tarp gave to him.

"I neither wanted it nor knew what to do with it; although there was no question of keeping it if no other reason than that I felt that Brother Tarp's gesture in offering it was of some deeply felt significance which I was compelled to respect" (Ellison 389).

Although the narrator does not want to keep the link, he feels compelled to do so because the chain gang is part of his heritage. One often feels that he can not ignore to his past, as does the Invisible Man. Even at the end of the novel when he is b...


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... part of his true identity.

Works Cited 

Bone, Robert.  "Ralph Ellison and the Uses of Imagination."  Modern Black Novelists: A Collection of Critical Essays.  Ed. M. G. Cooke. 

Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971.  45-63.

Brennan, Timothy.  "Ellison and Ellison: The Solipsism of Invisible Man."  CLA Journal XXV (Dec 1981): 162-81.

Ellison, Ralph.  Invisible Man.  New York: The Modern Library, 1994.

Holland, Laurence B.  "Ellison in Black and White: Confession, Violence and

Klein, Marcus.  "Ralph Ellison."  After Alienation: American Novels in Mid-Century.  Cleveland: World Pub., 1964.  71-146.

Langman, F.H.  "Reconsidering Invisible Man."  The Critical Review.  18 (1976) 114-27.

Lieber, Todd M.  "Ralph Ellison and the Metaphor of Invisibility in Black Literary Tradition."  American Quarterly.  Mar. 1972: 86-100.


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