Free Essays on Invisible Man: Defining Oneself

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Defining Oneself in Invisible Man

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a novel which embodies the universal theme of self-discovery, of the search to figure out who one truly is in life which we all are embarked upon. Throughout the text, the narrator is constantly wondering about who he really is, and evaluating the different identities which he assumes for himself. He progresses from being a hopeful student with a bright future to being just another poor black laborer in New Your City to being a fairly well off spokesperson for a powerful political group, and ultimately to being the "invisible man" which he eventually realizes that he has always been. The deepest irony in this text is that for a significant portion of the story, the narrator is unaware of his own invisibility, in believing that others can "see" him, he is essentially invisible to himself. Only through a long and arduous journey of self-discovery which is fraught with constant and unexpected tragedy and loss does he realize the truth, that his perceptions of himself and of how others perceived him had been backwards his entire life.

The story opens with the narrator participating in a "battle royal" prior to delivering a speech on humility, and on the progress of the Black people. These are the days during which he is still a hopeful scholar, defining himself as a "potential Booker T. Washington." At this point he is living the life that others have told him that he should live, and defines himself as he believes he is seen through their eyes, as an icon of what a Black person can achieve and as a role model for his people.

The abuse and degradation which he is put through in the battle royal give him the first inklings that everything is not as it seems, but fail to do anything to change the narrator's perceptions of himself. It is quite possible that if given the chance, the narrator may have gone on living the life that society had preselected for him, and never realized his invisibility, but fate had other plans for him.

His entire life was thrown into disarray the day that he was assigned to show around Mr. Norton, a powerful white man and founder of the school that he was attending. The narrator made the mistake of taking Mr.
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