Loss of Identity in Invisible Man
No matter how hard the Invisible Man tries, he can never break from the mold of black society. This mold is crafted and held together by white society during the novel. The stereotypes and expectations of a racist society compel blacks to behave only in certain ways, never allowing them to act according to their own will. Even the actions of black activists seeking equality are manipulated as if they are marionettes on strings. Throughout the novel the Invisible Man encounters this phenomenon and although he strives to achieve his own identity in society, his determination is that it is impossible.
In the beginning of the novel, the Invisible Man is forced into a battle royal with other black youths in order to entertain a white audience. In this battle, he is blindfolded, and as they boxed one another, an electric current runs through the floor and shocks them. Symbolically, the blindfold represents the black youths' inability to see through the white men's masks of goodwill. The electricity represents the shocking truth of the white men's motives, conforming the boys to the racial stereotype of blacks being violent and savage. The electric current sends the boys into writhing contortions, which is the first instance where the marionette metaphor is exhibited in the book. Even though the Invisible Man's speech is the reason he thinks he is at the event, the battle royal then becomes the true entertainment for the white folk who are watching.
Electricity is used later in the book to demonstrate this marionette metaphor when he receives "shock therapy" in a hospital after being injured at Liberty Paints. The wires that are attache...
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... its entire contents, which is comprised of symbols from his former ideology. This serves as a clean break from his past. He then rejects the idea of a single ideology, because a single ideology limits the complexity of each individual and puts the evolution of a society at a standstill.
Invisible Man is full of symbols that reinforce the oppressive power of white society. The single ideology he lived by for the majority of the novel kept him from reaching out and attaining true identity. Every black person he encountered was influenced by the marionette metaphor and forced to abide by it in order to gain any semblance of power they thought they had. In the end the Invisible Man slinks back into the underground, where he cannot be controlled, and his thoughts can be unbridled and free from the white man's mold of black society.
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