Invisible Man Essay: Searching for Black Identity in a White World

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Invisible Man: Searching for Black Identity in a White World

      Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man was published at a time when America was racially divided.  The novel presents the theme of the lack of black identity – a theme supported by the fact that the protagonist, Invisible Man, has no name.  The reader knows the names of Dr. Bledsoe, Ras-the-Exhorter, Brother Jack and others - but the reader does not know the name of the main character.  Ellison's leaves it to the reader to decide who he is and, on a larger scale, how white America perceives black America.

     Ellison's use of color is interesting.  He uses color to contrast the differences between black and white America.  Ellison describes the Tuskegee campus as a "world of whiteness", Dr Bledsoe's wife as having a "creamy-complexion", and the main character's lover's arm as "one ivory arm flung above her jet-black hair".  This contrast is used throughout the book and reminds the reader that race is an important issue in America. 

     In Chapter 2 the main character is a junior in college and feels good about his life.  Dr Bledsoe, the dean of Tuskegee Institute, assigns him to drive for an old white trustee named Mr. Norton and to make sure he gets to his meetings on time.  On one particular day Mr. Norton asks the boy to show him around.  Mr. Norton knows little of the surrounding area.  This foreshadows trouble for the young man.  What the boy failed to understand is that Dr. Bledsoe doesn't want Mr. Norton or any other white trustee to see the community surrounding the campus.  Unaware of this the boy takes the first road he encounters and immediately they see a poor black farmer named Trueblood.  At a time when most blacks are living in poverty, Tru...

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... the status quo, challenging the reader to see beyond skin color.  Only through realizing the truth about race, gender, and class warfare can we, as a nation, free ourselves from the shackles of prejudice. 

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bishop, Jack. Ralph Ellison. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.

Bellow, Saul. "Man Underground" Review of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Commentary. June 1952. 1st December 2001

Available: /50s/bellow-on-ellison.html

Ellison, Ralph.  Invisible Man.  Vintage International.  New York: Random House, Inc., 1947.

Fabre, Michel. "In Ralph Ellison's Precious Words." Unpublished Manuscript. 1996. 30 November. < Ellison/early.html

O'Meally, Robert, ed. New Essays on Invisible Man. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

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