Essay on Sight & Blindness in the Invisible Man

Essay on Sight & Blindness in the Invisible Man

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Sight & Blindness in the Invisible Man

Throughout the novel, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison works with many
different images of blindness and impaired vision and how it relates
to sight. These images prove to be fascinating pieces of symbolism
that enhance the themes of perception and vision within the novel.
From the beginning of the novel where the Invisible Man is blindfolded
to the end where he is walking down the streets of Harlem in dark
glasses, images of sight and blindness add to the meaning of many
scenes and characters. In many of these situations the characters
inability to see outwardly parallels their inability to understand
inwardly what is going on in the world around them. Characters like
Homer A. Barbee and Brother Jack believe they are all knowing but
prove to be blind when it comes to the world they are in. By looking
at the characters with impaired vision one can better understand their
struggles with understanding the world around them that they, however,
are not yet aware of.

In the battle royal scene many black youths, including the Invisible
Man, are brought together by the prominent white citizens of the town.
Here they are gathered into a boxing ring while a naked white woman
dances sensuously in front of them. The white men threatened the black
boys if they looked and if they didn't. The white men at once made the
black boys want to divert their stares and at the same time forced
them to watch. The white men were instantly controlling what the young
boys were seeing. By controlling their vision the white men made the
black boys embarrassed, ashamed and, upset, whishing that they
couldn't see the spectacle before them. The power the white men had is
sickly forced upon the blac...


... middle of paper ...


...e is only
holding him back, limiting his potential. Barbee's blindness prevents
him from seeing Bledsoe for who he truly is. Barbee's blindness is
representative of his inability to be an accurate judge of character.

Later in the novel, during his first speech for the Brotherhood, the
Invisible Man talks about how blind he, as well as the audience, is.
In a speech to members of the Harlem community about being
dispossessed the Invisible Man accuses "them" (an unknown other) of,
"dispossess[ing] us each of one eye from the day we are born" (343).
He fears that they have lost their peripheral and the others will be
free to attack from the sides. He considers himself and the Harlem
community "a nation of one-eyed mice" (343). The Invisible Man is
using this metaphor to try to pull the community's eyes together so
that they won't be as vulnerable to "them."

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