Invisible Man Essay: Search for True Identity

analytical Essay
2181 words
2181 words

Search for True Identity in Invisible Man "Who the hell am I?" (Ellison 386) This question puzzled the invisible man, the unidentified, anonymous narrator of Ralph Ellison's acclaimed novel Invisible Man. Throughout the story, the narrator embarks on a mental and physical journey to seek what the narrator believes is "true identity," a belief quite mistaken, for he, although unaware of it, had already been inhabiting true identities all along. The narrator's life is filled with constant eruptions of mental traumas. The biggest psychological burden he has is his identity, or rather his misidentity. He feels "wearing on the nerves" (Ellison 3) for people to see him as what they like to believe he is and not see him as what he really is. Throughout his life, he takes on several different identities and none, he thinks, adequately represents his true self, until his final one, as an invisible man. The narrator thinks the many identities he possesses does not reflect himself, but he fails to recognize that identity is simply a mirror that reflects the surrounding and the person who looks into it. It is only in this reflection of the immediate surrounding can the viewers relate the narrator's identity to. The viewers see only the part of the narrator that is apparently connected to the viewer's own world. The part obscured is unknown and therefore insignificant. Lucius Brockway, an old operator of the paint factory, saw the narrator only as an existence threatening his job, despite that the narrator is sent there to merely assist him. Brockway repeatedly question the narrator of his purpose there and his mechanical credentials but never even bother to inquire his name. Because to the old fellow, who the narrator is as a person is uninterested. What he is as an object, and what that object's relationship is to Lucius Brockway's engine room is important. The narrator's identity is derived from this relationship, and this relationship suggests to Brockway that his identity is a "threat". However the viewer decides to see someone is the identity they assign to that person. The Closing of The American Mind, by Allan Bloom, explains this identity phenomenon by comparing two "ships of states" (Bloom 113). If one ship "is to be forever at sea, [and] ¡K another is to reach port and the passengers go their separate ways, they think about one another and their relationships on the ship very differently in the two cases" (Bloom 113).

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how the narrator fails to recognize that identity is a mirror that reflects the surrounding and the person who looks into it.
  • Analyzes how the narrator preaches to others that identity is transitional yet he does not accept it himself.
  • Analyzes how john howard griffin, and narrator of black like me, demonstrated the interchangeability of identities and its effects.
  • Analyzes how the narrator can believe himself to be whatever he wants, but his identity is not what others see of him.
  • Explains bloom, allan, the closing of the american mind, new york: simon & schuster inc.
  • Explains that griffon, john howard, black like me. (35th anniversary ed.). new york: penguin books usa inc.
  • Analyzes how the unidentified, anonymous narrator of ralph ellison's acclaimed novel, invisible man, embarks on a mental and physical journey to seek what he believes is "true identity."
  • Analyzes how the narrator craves attention, recognition and status, and wants to be honored as someone special.
  • Analyzes how the narrator sees the meaning of identity as the universal perspective of a being.
  • Analyzes how the narrator believes he has finally found his true identity, but invisibility is only his way to avoid reality.
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