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Stereotypes and Stereotyping in Invisble Man

Powerful Stereotypes in Invisble Man

Ellison creates many stereotypes of African Americans of his time. He uses this to bring less informed readers to understand certain characters motives, thoughts, and reasoning. By using each personality of an African American in extremes, Ellison adds passion to the novel, a passion that would not be there if he would let individualism into his characters. Individualism, or lack there of is also significant to the novel. It supports his view of an anti-racial America, because by using stereotypes he makes his characters racial these are the characters that the Americans misunderstand and abominate.

Dr. Bledsoe is the stereotypical submissive African American. He seemingly is peremptory, but this is just a façade. Though all of the African Americans in his community hold him in a high regard, he has no such respect in the "white-mans" world. College students tell stories about how when in the north, he is called Mr. Doctor Bledsoe. Yet in his letter addressed to Mr. Emerson, he ended the letter with, "I am your humble servant." It is this cowardly submission that Bledsoe uses to "gain power." He enjoys what little power he has in the African American community, so much in fact that he says that he would rather see every black man in the country lynched than give up his "power."

Ras the Exhorter (later the Destroyer) is the stereotypical black supremacist. One of the most memorable characters to me, Ras battles for social equality; literally. Literally meaning prince in one of Ethiopia's languages and mimicking the sound of Ra, the Egyptian sun God, Ras encompasses the stereotypical black-nationalist. By using these allusions, Ellison is establishing the character's personality even before he acts. Ras's philosophy, one that was unorthodox at the time of publishing, is that blacks should cast off oppression and prejudice by destroying the ability of white men to control them. This inevitably leads to violence. This anti-segregation from blacks was unheard of.

These two offer the reader a sense of variety and contrast. Both causes conflict with the Invisible Man, yet they also offer an inspiration and wisdom. Bledsoe taught him to not be so naïve, even to his own people.
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