The Narrator's Metamorphosis in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Essay

The Narrator's Metamorphosis in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Essay

Length: 2961 words (8.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Narrator's Metamorphosis in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man


A mere glance at the title of Ralph Ellison's book, Invisible Man, stimulates questions such as, "Who is this man?" and, more importantly, "Why is this man invisible?" The anonymous narrator of Ellison's novel begins by assuring the reader that he is, in fact, a real person and is not invisible in the Hollywood sense of the term, but, rather, invisible "simply because people refuse to see" him for who he really is (3). The actions of both blacks and whites toward the anonymous narrator of the novel during his search for identity lead him to this conclusion.

The narrator begins the story of his realization of his invisibility at the end of his high school days, as an intelligent and diligent student in an unidentified southern U.S. state in the early part of the 20th century. Upon giving an excellent speech about the role humility plays in progress, prominent members of the community invite him to recite the speech once again "at a gathering of the town's leading white citizens" (17). At the meeting, though, the high-ranked members of the community force the narrator and other black boys to participate in what the narrator terms a "battle royal," in which they fight each other and attempt to pull fake plastic coins from an electric rug. The narrator proceeds to win the "battle royal," and presents his speech to the wealthy men (17). Throughout the delivery of his speech, they mock and harass him, failing to see who he really is. The school's superintendent then rewards him with a scholarship to college. Because of the great reward and the doors the reward opens up, the narrator accepts the subhuman treatment as normal. Still a weak character, he allows people to...


... middle of paper ...


...s dramatically. He now realizes people do not and will not see him for who he is, and yet he is willing to play the part in society he feels he must play.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bone, Robert. The Negro Novel in America. New Haven: Yale U P, 1966.

________."Ralph Ellison and the uses of the Imagination." Ralph Ellison: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. John Hersey. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1974.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.

Gates, Henry L., Jr. ed. Black Literature and Literary Theory. New York: Methuen, 1984.

Hersey, John, ed. Ralph Ellison: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974.

Kartiganer, Donald M., and Malcolm Griffith. Theories of American Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Smith, Anthony D. The Ethnic Revival. Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1981.

Need Writing Help?

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

Check your paper »

Significance of the Narrator's Invisibility in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

- 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. He believes that in dictating a speech, the narrator will be recognized by the white community for his intelligence. Unfortunately, he is turned into entertainment when he is forced to fight in a “battle royal” with other black men. After being beaten blindfolded and pushed into an electrocuted carpet, the narrator still gathers up the strength to dictate his speech, only to find the white men “still [talking] and still [laughing], as though deaf with cotton...   [tags: Invisible Man]

Powerful Essays
684 words (2 pages)

The Narrator in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Essay examples

- The Narrator in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man The narrator in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man views himself as invisible because he believes the world is full of blind men who cannot see him for who is really is. In the beginning of the story, the narrator is treated by white men as the stereotypical black male - sex-hungry, poor and violent. These white men are completely blind to what black men really are....   [tags: racism invisibility black man]

Powerful Essays
2051 words (5.9 pages)

The Narrator's Metamorphosis in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Essay

- The Narrator's Metamorphosis in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man A mere glance at the title of Ralph Ellison's book, Invisible Man, stimulates questions such as, "Who is this man?" and, more importantly, "Why is this man invisible?" The anonymous narrator of Ellison's novel begins by assuring the reader that he is, in fact, a real person and is not invisible in the Hollywood sense of the term, but, rather, invisible "simply because people refuse to see" him for who he really is (3). The actions of both blacks and whites toward the anonymous narrator of the novel during his search for identity lead him to this conclusion....   [tags: Invisible Man Essays]

Powerful Essays
2961 words (8.5 pages)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Essay

- In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the narrator goes through many hardships that make him who he is. He experiences being discouraged and unlucky many different times throughout the novel. However, there are three major times that the narrator goes through these hardships. He is mistreated for his race, especially in the beginning of the novel. He is discouraged by the president of his college when he is expelled. He is also taken down when he finds out that the Brotherhood is not who he thought they were....   [tags: Novel Analysis, Narrator]

Powerful Essays
1459 words (4.2 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]

Powerful Essays
2213 words (6.3 pages)

Symbols in the Briefcase in “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison Essay

- Towards the end of the book “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the narrator who remains unnamed thought the entire book, risks his life to save a briefcase filled with seemingly random assorted items. But later in the book the narrator is forced to burn the items in his briefcase in order to find his way out of a sewer he gets stuck in. Closer reading reveals that the items in his briefcase are more than random assorted items, but instead are symbols. Each one of those symbols represents a point in the narrator’s life where he is either betrayed or made “invisible” by the people around him....   [tags: Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, symbolism, ]

Powerful Essays
748 words (2.1 pages)

Symbolism in Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison Essay

- When looking into the inner workings of a machine, one does not see each individual gear as being separate, but as an essential part of a larger system. The cogs on the gear move in a way that losing one would cause the entire machine to fail. This concept of mechanics lays the foundation to many issues touched on in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The machine imagery comes through in two conversations with men that the narrator may idolize, though he – the invisible man – does not realize this at the time....   [tags: literary analysis, ralph ellison]

Powerful Essays
1328 words (3.8 pages)

Use of Symbolism In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Essay

- Ralph Ellison uses several symbols to emphasize the narrator’s attempt to escape from stereotypes and his theme of racial inequalities in his novel, Invisible Man. In particular, the symbolism of the cast-iron is one that haunts the narrator throughout the book. Ellison’s character discovers a small, cast-iron bank that implies the derogatory stereotypes of a black man in society at the time. From its “wide-mouthed, red-lipped, and very black” features, to its suggestion of a black man entertaining for trivial rewards, this ignites anger in Ellison’s narrator....   [tags: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man]

Powerful Essays
768 words (2.2 pages)

Essay on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

- Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man “All things, it is said are duly recorded – all things of importance, that is. But not quite, for actu-ally it is only the known, the seen, the heard and only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, those lies his keepers keep their power by. (Ralph Ellison, 439) The Christian value system that saturates Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is exhibited in the invisible man’s struggle over whether humility is an appropriate virtue for him to pursue or just a handicap that enables him to be taken advantage of and oppressed by the powers that be....   [tags: Ralph Ellison Invisible man]

Powerful Essays
8038 words (23 pages)

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Essay

- Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man A twisted coming-of-age story, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man follows a tormented, nameless protagonist as he struggles to discover himself in the context of the racially charged 1950s. Ellison uses the question of existence “outside” history as a vehicle to show that identity cannot exist in a vacuum, but must be shaped in response to others. To live outside history is to be invisible, ignored by the writers of history: “For history records the patterns of men’s lives…who fought and who won and who lived to lie about it afterwards” (439)....   [tags: Ralph Ellison Invisible Man Essays]

Powerful Essays
2195 words (6.3 pages)