Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

“All things, it is said are duly recorded – all things of importance, that is. But not quite, for actu-ally it is only the known, the seen, the heard and only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, those lies his keepers keep their power by.

(Ralph Ellison, 439)

The Christian value system that saturates Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is exhibited in the invisible man’s struggle over whether humility is an appropriate virtue for him to pursue or just a handicap that enables him to be taken advantage of and oppressed by the powers that be. During the process of becoming a nomadic experimenter as opposed to the “walking zombie” he was in his youth, he overturns Christian beliefs and meanings that govern the college, the workplace, and the communist organization called the Brotherhood (Ellison, 94). Although those different organizations that he encounters throughout his life are unaffiliated with religion in any direct sense, each expects him to fulfill the subservient role of black man that was promulgated by the missionaries of European colonization. Through telling of his fight against his destiny as inferior, the narrator ferrets out escape routes from the conceptual structures of the dominant Christian order, providing him a different understanding of identity and allowing him to become more self-determined than he was in his youth.

The narrator constructs his bildungsroman as a critique of the Christian ideology that pervades America and functions to secure the domination of the ruling class. He critiques the dominant machine because it...

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