Comparing Power and Freedom in Invisible Man and Notes From Underground

Comparing Power and Freedom in Invisible Man and Notes From Underground

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Comparing Power and Freedom in Invisible Man and Notes From Underground

 
    The quest for power is an endless one for humanity.  Countless tales of greed, strife, and triumph stem from this common ambition.  Similarly, men universally seek freedom, a privilege entitling an individual to make independent decisions and express personal opinion.  Exploration of the connection between these two abstract concepts remains a topic of interest, especially in the works of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground.  Two distinct definitions of "power" exist: one deals with societally defined power, generally represented by wealth, leadership, and authority over the lives of others.  The other defines a power within oneself, in which an individual gains a true picture of his human condition and relationship to society.  In Invisible Man, the protagonist enters a Negro college, only to be expelled to New York.  He then begins a career with the Brotherhood, a group to promote civil rights and support blacks. The narrator of Notes From Underground outlines a series of autobiographical recalled events that comprise the background for his philosophy concerning the human condition and freedom.  Both Invisible Man and Underground Man, in their direct conflicts with power inequality, illustrate the universal human conflict in the pursuit of power.  In each protagonist, heightened awareness of their human condition onsets a retreat underground to compile notes on the nature of power and freedom.  Both conclude that freedom arises as a result of self-awareness and of ability to both recognize and accept a powerlessness of self amidst oppressive societal power.

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Bakhtin, Mikhail. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson. Introd. by Wayne C. Booth. Theory and History of Literature. Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Pr., 1984.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground: A New Translation, Backgrounds and Sources, Responses, Criticism. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1989.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage Books, 1952.

Fabre, Michel. "In Ralph Ellison's Precious Words." Unpublished Manuscript. 1996. Accessed 30 November 2001. http://www.igc.org/dissent/archive/ Ellison/early.html

Howe, Irving. "Review of: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man" Pub. The Nation. 10 May 1952. 30 November 1999. http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/howe-on-ellison.html.

O'Meally, Robert, ed. New Essays on Invisible Man. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

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