Symbolism in Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison Essay

Symbolism in Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison Essay

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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. The first of these conversations is with the veteran, while the second is with Lucius Brockway. Though the two may not qualify as “main characters,” they both play a crucial role, or as two gears in the system of Invisible Man. While one has a more literal focus on machineries than the other, both men have similar ideas of the topics they inadvertently discuss. Both discussions pave the way to the narrator’s awakening and the realization of his use in the general public; the realization that the narrator is a gear in civilization. Within Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the invisible man’s various interactions with people regarding machines allow him to acquire knowledge in regard to the mechanics of society; this allows him to progress from an invisible “mechanical man,” to a man who implements his newfound awareness to embrace the power of his invisibility.
The metaphor of machines enters early into the story, as in the third chapter, the narrator encounters a veteran who claims to have graduated from the same college the narrator currently attends, along with being a doctor. At the same time, the veteran is institutionalized, which shows the resistance to a freethinking black man by the public - or specifically white supremac...


... middle of paper ...


... near-death, the invisible man finds solace in his invisibility and comprehends his place in humanity (Ellison 4). Instead of publicly - whether vocally or physically - fighting against his treatment as a machine by the white supremacists or submitting to the characterization of a gear in a machine, the invisible man forges his own way of dealing with people. In ways such as stealing electricity from the Monopolated Light & Power Company, the narrator not only complies with society, but also is able to get his “revenge” in a sense (Ellison 7). Done through the symbolism of machines, the invisible man is able not only able to comprehend the mechanics of civilization, but is able to use this information and his newly understood freewill to arrange how he is perceived by others.



Works Cited
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International. 1995. Print.

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