Ralph Ellison's Life: Invisible Man

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Invisible Man (1952) chronicles the journey of a young African-American man on a quest for self-discovery amongst racial, social and political tensions. This novel features a striking parallelism to Ellison’s own life. Born in Oklahoma in 1914, Ellison was heavily influenced by his namesake, transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ellison attended the Tuskegee Institute on a music scholarship before leaving to pursue his dreams in New York. Ellison’s life mirrors that of his protagonist as he drew heavily on his own experiences to write Invisible Man. Ellison uses the parallel structure between the narrator’s life and his own to illustrate the connection between sight and power, stemming from Ellison’s own experiences with the communist party. In the opening chapters, the narrator receives a scholarship to attend the “state college for Negros”. He is told that in order to win the scholarship, he must stand and deliver a speech to a congregation of the community’s most important members. However upon arriving to the hotel where he is to give his speech, he is blindfolded, and forced to participate in a “Battle Royale” amongst other young African-American men. During the battle, he is able to halfway lift the blindfold, partially restoring his sight. The combatants swing wildly at one another. The Narrator says, “Blindfolded, I could no longer control my motions. I had no dignity.” He is dehumanized, brutalized, and demoralized. His blindness is symbolic, as he doesn’t hold any authority in the situation. He is powerless, at the mercy of the white men who are toying with him. The narrator believes that he was attending the convention to procure a scholarship to further his education; however, in reality he was mere entertainment. H... ... middle of paper ... ...oop. "Ralph Ellison: Harlem & Richard Wright." Shmoop. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. Brucker, Carl. "Ralph Ellison." Ralph Ellison. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. Cuneo, Nick . "Appeasement, Consciousness, and a New Humanism: Ellison’s Criticism of Washington and DuBois and His Hope for Black Americans." Duke Edu. Duke University, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. Staples, Brent. "Visible Man." The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 May 2007. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. Foley, Barbara. "Ralph Ellison As Proletarian Journalist, by Barbara Foley." Ralph Ellison As Proletarian Journalist, by Barbara Foley. Rutgers University, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. Denman, Scullin, and Goracy. "W.E.B. Du Bois." Black and Red. The College of New Jersey, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1995. Print.
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