After reading this book I wondered what it would be like to be blind then gain sight, but realize you cannot see yourself because you are invisible. It seems like a cruel joke that once you can see you realize that you still cannot see who you are. Even though this seems like a very depressing event Ellison makes it seem like a positive thing. While, at the end of the story, the narrator still does not know his place in the world he seems to be glad that he is no longer blindfolded. He even questions the reader's ability to see, "Who knows but that, on some lower frequencies, I speak for you?" What Ellison does well is the evolution of the narrator's blindness.
The blindness motif seems to first show up at the battle royal. The blindfold scares the narrator. He was not used to darkness, and it put him in a "blind terror." This is the first time that the narrator admits his blindness, but at the same time he also shows the blindness of others. All of the men in the battle royal are blindfolded. Is this symbolic of the African-American's plight in society? The whites have blindfolded them and they have no idea who they are fighting against. So they end up beating each other rather than the real people they should be fighting. I think Ellison goes even deeper than mere race relations in this scene. I think he is showing the plight of the individual in society. I think Ellison is saying that we fight blindly amongst ourselves, and it is not until we take off the blindfolds that we can band together and fight the real enemy. When the narrator finally is allowed to remove his blindfold he is so preoccupied with what he believes he is there for that he can not really focus on his fight with Tatlock. Again Ellison is commenting on the plight of the individual.
The narrator is also blind to Dr. Bledsoe's true nature. It is not until later in the story that he realizes that Bledsoe wears different masks in front of different people. The narrator cannot be completely held at fault here because others are also fooled by Bledsoe. Bledsoe also dupes Barbee. Ellison then lets the reader know that Barbee is physically blind. Why is that fact important? I believe that Ellison is saying that anyone who buys into Bledsoe or Bledsoe's way of thinking is also blind. There is a point in Barbee's speech where he is "turning toward Dr. B...
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... fact that he can be mistaken for Rinehart proves that Rinehart has no identity himself, but it also proves the same thing for the narrator. This seems to be why the narrator is never given a name. How do we identify people? By their names, and he has no identity so he is nameless.
The Epilogue is as important as the Prologue. Here we learn that the narrator is ready to go out and search for his identity. However, now he seems to see himself as higher than others because of his experiences. He states that everyone has experienced the same thing he has, but on a "lower frequency." Is this conceit, or is he trying to relate to everyone? If it is conceit then I am less likely to trust the narrator and his point of view on all that happened to him. However, he speaks of his "social responsibility" so he seems to be a caring person, and it is because of this that I trust him.
1. Is Mr. Norton wrong in believing that the narrator is "his destiny"?
2. Who is the most "visible" person in the book?
3. Ellison seems to be speaking out against stereotyping, yet most of his characters are types rather than characters. Is he the very thing he is speaking out against?
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