Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is the story of an educated black man who has been oppressed and controlled by white men throughout his life. As the narrator, he is nameless throughout the novel as he journeys from the South, where he studies at an all-black college, to Harlem where he joins a Communist-like party known as the Brotherhood. Throughout the novel, the narrator is on a search for his true identity. Several letters are given to him by outsiders that provide him with a role: student, patient, and a member of the Brotherhood. One by one he discards these as he continues to grow closer to the sense of his true self. As the novel ends, he decides to hide in an abandoned cellar, plotting to undermine the whites. The entire story can be summed up when the narrator says "I'm an invisible man and it placed me in a hole- or showed me the hole I was in...." During the novel, the narrator comes to value several intangibles that eventually help to shape his identity. Through his experiences and the people he has met, the narrator discovers the important value of his education, his invisibility, and his grandfather's advice.
From the very beginning of the novel the narrator values his education. His education first brings him a calfskin briefcase, when the superintendent rewards him for his success, saying "Take this prize and keep it well. Consider it a badge of office. Prize it. Keep developing as you are and some day it will be filled with important papers that will help shape the destiny of your people." The narrator treasures the briefcase so much because it symbolizes his education. He carries it throughout the whole novel, and it is the only object he takes into the cellar fro...
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