The Issue of Identity Formation Depicted in Ralph Ellison's Novel, Invisible Man

The Issue of Identity Formation Depicted in Ralph Ellison's Novel, Invisible Man

Length: 962 words (2.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

All of us go though a period of discovery of our identities. The novel Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, addresses the issue of identity formation by following the efforts of an invisible man in search of his identity. He considers himself to be “invisible” because people refuse to see him for his individuality and intelligence..The narrator in the novel Invisible Man is invisible to others and to himself because of effects of racism and the expectations of others. This is supported in significant parts of the novel such as the “battle royal,” his time in the Brotherhood, and the Harlem riot.
The narrator’s invisibility first comes up in chapter one, where he is invited to a community meeting consisting of prestigious white citizens. He comes to this meeting believing that he is to give a speech to represent his high school. The narrator believes that in conducting his speech, he will be recognized by the white community for his intelligence and potential. Unfortunately, he is turned into the evening’s entertainment when he is forced into a “battle royal” with his fellow classmates, beaten senselessly and pushed onto an electrocuted carpet. It is ironic that the narrator, coming to the meeting under the impression that he will be treated like royalty, is pushed into a ring and forced to fight like a caged animal. What is “royal” about this disgusting spectacle that portrays racism at its most barbaric? Still, the narrator endures, gathering up the strength to read his speech, only to find the white men “still [talking] and still [laughing], as though deaf with cotton in dirty ears” (p30). The author Ralph Ellison uses “deaf with cotton” to reinforce the choice for the white men not to see him, as they have refused to see ens...


... middle of paper ...


...ws that the narrator sees the idiocy of the Brotherhood’s blatant choice to sacrifice their community work in Harlem and move on to bigger politics. This idea of blindness connects to the “The Allegory of the Cave,” a fictional dialogue written by Plato, a famous Greek philosopher.
However, the narrator’s invisibility is not the case the night of the Harlem riot, when he falls into the manhole he later chooses to spend the rest of his life in seclusion from society. Down there, the narrator burns the contents of his briefcase he first received at the “battle royal” in Chapter One. He describes the way each one burns, symbolizing his enlightenment of the social obstacles that have hindered his ability to find his identity. He first burns his high school diploma, describing a sense of “remote irony,” aware now that his education means nothing in a racist society

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about The Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison

- ... It took him a long time to come to the realization that not everyone is equally created. His grandparents were slaves some eighty-five years ago. Not being ashamed of that, he was told that he took after his grandfather. He saw his grandfather as a man of statue, so he tries to be a model student. Often wondering if his grandfather would approve. “He was considered an example of desirable conduct” (16). He gives a speech on his graduation day. It pleased the superintendent and earned him an invitation to give it to the white citizens....   [tags: Race, Black people, Invisible Man, Inequality]

Better Essays
725 words (2.1 pages)

Essay Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison

- The inability to identify one’s self worth and overall placing in society can create a constant struggle internally; leaving someone in a consistent battle towards finding their own self-satisfaction. The history behind African American slavery and segregation reflects a mindset, which historically left almost every African American questioning who they are and what they represent. A negative outlook of this degree created generations of anger, frustration, and confusion that affected a culture both internally and externally....   [tags: Black people, African American, Race]

Better Essays
1241 words (3.5 pages)

Invisible Man Essay: Searching for Black Identity in a White World

- Invisible Man: Searching for Black Identity in a White World         Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man was published at a time when America was racially divided.  The novel presents the theme of the lack of black identity – a theme supported by the fact that the protagonist, Invisible Man, has no name.  The reader knows the names of Dr. Bledsoe, Ras-the-Exhorter, Brother Jack and others - but the reader does not know the name of the main character.  Ellison's leaves it to the reader to decide who he is and, on a larger scale, how white America perceives black America....   [tags: Invisible Man Essays]

Better Essays
1219 words (3.5 pages)

Essay on Double Consciousness : Ralph Ellison 's Invisible Man

- RudyRyan Esquivel Comparative Literature 126 Dr. Jude Akudinobi 11 December 2014 Double Consciousness in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man Defining Identity Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man tackles the concept of Double Consciousness. A term coined by W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois describes “double consciousness” as follows: “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity....   [tags: African American, Black people, W. E. B. Du Bois]

Better Essays
2661 words (7.6 pages)

A critique of Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison Essay

- For the purpose of research and measurement of the scholars interpretive analysis skills, the scholar has chosen to critique work by Ralph Ellison entitled “Battle Royal”. In this paper, one will find what it means to be invisible. I argue from two different perspectives regarding who is invisible in the novel, and to whom those revealed persons are invisible to. Revealed will also be themes discovered throughout the story along with the authors use of irony that’s revealed in the work. In this work one will find supporting text from scholars who have taken issue with stereotyping, race relations in society along with one’s who have also critiqued Ellison’s work....   [tags: invisible man, self-discovery, readers]

Better Essays
1634 words (4.7 pages)

Invisible Man Essay

- Equality between individuals is a primary step to prosperity under a democracy. However, does this moral continue to apply among differences and distinct characters of the total population. In the novel, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, the protagonists suffers from the lack of acknowledgement guaranteed to African Americans in both the North and South regions of North America during the early 1900s. The Narrator expresses the poignant problems that blacks face as he travels to the North. An anti-hero is created on his voyage of being expelled from college, earning a job at Liberty Paints, and joining the organization group called Brotherhood....   [tags: Literary Analysis, Ralph Ellison]

Better Essays
2660 words (7.6 pages)

Intertwining Fates as a Motive for Invisibility in Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man

- Invisibility is a motif introduced even before the first page of the novel is turned. Although The Invisible Man was written over a 7 year period, Ralph Ellison uses invisibility as a representation of the status of a black man during the society of the late 1920s and early 1930s (Reilly 20). Symbolically, the black man is invisible to the white man because the latter is blind towards both the reality of the black man’s physical presence and influence in society. The narrator is in a continuous struggle with himself throughout the novel in a difficult attempt to discover who he is in a racist America, and make his mark on a white society....   [tags: Literary Analysis, Analytical Essay]

Better Essays
837 words (2.4 pages)

Invisible Man Ends With The Narrator Essays

- Invisible Man ends with the narrator running away from the police for being accused of doing something he did not do. Scenes like this from a novel that was written sixty years ago can still be recognizable to readers today because of police brutality. Since the narrator was near Ras the Exhorter, he was guilty by association. Other unfortunate events led the narrator to be expelled from school, unemployed, and released from his organization. There was always a person of higher position over the narrator who had a distorted view of race relations....   [tags: Race, African American, Black people]

Better Essays
1826 words (5.2 pages)

Use Of Symbolism Throughout Battle Royal, By Ralph Ellison Essay

- The use of symbolism throughout Battle Royal, the first chapter in Ralph Ellison’s novel “Invisible Man,” reveals and reifies Ellison’s view of the hindering influence that racism has had on individual identity among the black race. The narrator’s struggle at attempting to deliver his graduation speech to prestigious white men is equally representative of African Americans’ struggle to develop a self-assured identity, apart from that of a slave, among a racist society of superior whites. The narrator’s grandfather is essential to the story as he admits that he considers himself a traitor for obeying whites....   [tags: Black people, White people, Race, African American]

Better Essays
1112 words (3.2 pages)

Essay on Racism and Identity in Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man

- In Ralph Ellison’s novel The Invisible man, the unknown narrator states “All my life I had been looking for something and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was…I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself the question which I, and only I, could answer…my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!” (13). throughout the novel, the search for identity becomes a major aspect for the narrator’s journey to identify who he is in this world....   [tags: Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man]

Better Essays
2213 words (6.3 pages)