A Satire of Life as Performed by Monkeys

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He was a visionary, an artist, an illusionist like no other: William Shakespeare. Shakespeare, a master at his craft, believed that “all the world’s a stage”; Ralph Ellison seems to agree. Ellison crafts a world in which the narrator of the Invisible Man learns through his experiences with performances and exile that true power can only be wielded by people uninhibited by the strict routines of society. The narrator is completely powerless and exiled from freedom in the theatre called school. He is the pride of the young black boys, bright and college-bound. His speech given at his high school about “social responsibility” is obviously well thought out and fleshed with purpose and meaning, but because of the shallow nature of the entire ceremony, he is mostly ignored (30). The crowd homes in on exactly what they want to hear. His rehearsed lines deteriorate into a reading from a crudely-made teleprompter that displays no more than three syllables at a time. His speech about the values of social harmony go mostly ignored or overlooked by the crowd until he makes a mistake and openly reveals his beliefs. His carefully dictated speech, filled with ideas of societal acceptance and “social equality,” is harshly criticized and undermined by the racist, white men who act as though they are friendly to the narrator, but turn vicious at the sign of such radical, free thinking from the black boy (31). At the front of the hall, he is exiled and alone while attempting to speak out for what he believes in. He learns that he’s “got to know [his] place at all times” with the white men (31). He understands that the whole ceremony is a farce and no one is actually there to listen to a young black boy speak. Nevertheless, he is forced to stand ... ... middle of paper ... ...that people threw at him hoping that eventually they would just forget about him and leave him alone. He has then embraced the idea that now “on the lower frequencies, [he speaks] for [everyone]” (581). His exile to the underground has stripped him of his previous identity and possessions, but he emerges strong empowered by his invisibility. Ralph Ellison, in his novel Invisible Man provides a view of a character whose identity has been shaped by his experiences as an actor on the metaphorical stage of life and exile from various groups he’s been a part of. Through school, Brother Clifton’s Sambo doll, Rineheart, and his exile underground, the narrator has been able to shed his misconceptions about the world and grow into a person possessing both freedom and free thought in a society full of mindless drones that are enslaved by the systems that they are a part of.

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