Invisible Race and Gender in Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison Essay

Invisible Race and Gender in Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison Essay

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In Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the unnamed narrator shows us through the use motifs and symbols how racism and sexism negatively affect the social class and individual identity of the oppressed people. Throughout the novel, the African American narrator tells us the story of his journey to find success in life which is sabotaged by the white-dominated society in which he lives in. Along his journey, we are also shown how the patriarchy oppresses all of the women in the novel through the narrator’s encounters with them.

One of the major motifs in Invisible Man is blindness. The first time we’re shown blindness in the novel is at the battle royal. The blindfolds that all of the contestants wear symbolize how the black society is blind to the way white society is still belittling them, despite the abolishment of slavery. When he arrives at the battle, the narrator says “I was told that since I was to be there anyway I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part of the entertainment” (Ellison 17). Although, the white men asked him to come to the battle royal in order to deliver his graduation speech, they force him to participate in the battle royal, where the white men make young black men fight each other as a form of entertainment for them. When the black men put their blindfolds on to fight in this battle, they are blind, both figuratively and literally. They can't see the people they are fighting against, just as they can't see how the white men are exploiting them for their own pleasure. Shelly Jarenski claims “the Battle Royal establishes the relationship between white power, male power, and (hetero)sexual power, the “self-grounding presumptions” of dominant subjectivity” ...

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... Jerilyn, and Ellen Silber. Women in Literature: Reading Through the Lens of a Gender.
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Butler, Robert. "Ralph Ellison: A Biography." African American Review 42.3/4 (2008): 759.
Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

Jarenski, Shelly. "Invisibility Embraced: The Abject As A Site Of Agency In Ellison's "Invisible
Man.." Melus 35.4 (2010): 85-109. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

Johns, Gillian. "Jim Trueblood And His Critic-Readers: Ralph Ellison's Rhetoric Of Dramatic Irony And Tall Humor In The Mid-Century American Literary Public Sphere." Texas Studies In Literature & Language 49.3 (2007): 230. Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

Dickstein, Morris. "Ralph Ellison, Race, And American Culture." Raritan 18.4 (1999): 30. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

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