The Liberty Paint Factory in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man provides the setting for a very significant chain of events in the novel. In addition, it provides many symbols which will influence a reader's interpretation. Some of those symbols are associated with the structure itself, with Mr. Kimbro, and with Mr. Lucius Brockway.
The first of many instances in these scenes that concern the invisible man and the symbolic role of white and black in the novel is when the narrator is sent to the paint factory by the young Mr. Emerson to try to find a job. Mr. Emerson, however, only sends him out of pity. The narrator arrives and immediately notices the huge electric sign that reads "KEEP AMERICA PURE WITH LIBERTY PAINTS". Later on, the reader will learn that Liberty Paint is famous for its white paint called none other than "Optic White". In effect, the sign advertises to keep America pure with whites and not just white paint. Next, the invisible man must walk down a long, pure white hallway. At this time he is a black man symbolically immersed in a white world, a recurring idea of the novel.
After receiving his job, the narrator goes to meet Mr. Kimbro. In this scene, Kimbro teaches the narrator how to make the ordinary white paint into "Optic White": Ten drops of a black formula must be mixed in to the white paint, of which the surface is already brown. The narrator does not understand this, and inquires about it, only to be insulted by Mr. Kimbro. Mr. Kimbro, in no way what so ever, wants any of his workers to think. He just wants them to obey. So the invisible man, although still unable to comprehend this idios...
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...d Mr. Lucius Brockway all help portray this image to its fullest, while contributing to the rest of the novel.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bellow, Saul. "Man Underground" Review of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Commentary. June 1952. 1st December 2001
Available: http://www.english.upeen.edu/~afilreis /50s/bellow-on-ellison.html
Ellison, Ralph. Going to the Territory. New York: Random House, 1986.
Fabre, Michel. "In Ralph Ellison's Precious Words." Unpublished Manuscript. 1996. 30 November. <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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