Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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When people are ashamed of their heritage, they attempt to leave it behind in order to change the way people view them. Some people allow years to go by while attempting to hide their history instead of understanding that their history is a part of their lives, and it will never go away. Despite the multiple attempts and methods they use to conceal their history, the past will never go away. In the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the main character is simply referred to as the narrator. He is not ashamed of being an African American, but he is ashamed of the history and the negative stereotypes that society gives to them, and likewise, he tries his best to dispose of them using his briefcase. The narrator does not know that the items he places in his briefcase are symbolic of not only his history, but also his identity. Although the narrator uses his briefcase to hide the contents that represent his history and identity throughout the novel, in the end he realizes the true purpose of his collected goods. The briefcase is the narrator’s most prized possession because it makes him feel like he is viewed in a better light with it than he would be without it. The narrator receives the briefcase at the beginning of the novel when he attends what initially is supposed to be him giving his graduation speech in front of his community’s most prominent white people as the recognition of his academic success. Instead, he is a participant in the Battle Royal with several of his schoolmates. After being beaten, electrocuted, and humiliated by the white men who held the event, the narrator wins the royal and receives a calfskin briefcase from the superintendent as his prize. The superintendent tells the narrator, “…someday it w... ... middle of paper ... ... coin bank, or the chain link because these things are a part of the narrator’s heritage. Although they are hurtful, the stereotypes from these items are inescapable. Knowing this, the narrator finally accepts his history, which gives him the ability to find himself without trying to hide what is a part of him. After the narrator burns the identities that society gives the narrator, the briefcase allows him to accept his history and true identity. Works Cited Callahan, John F. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man: A Casebook. New York: Oxford UP, 2004. 134-300. Print. Early, Gerald Lyn. Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2009. Print. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1995. Print. Nadel, Alan. Invisible Criticism: Ralph Ellison and the American Canon. Iowa City: U of Iowa, 1988. 130-45. Print.
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