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Stages of Visibility in Invisible Man
In Ralph Ellison's novel, Invisible Man, the main character goes
through many situations trying to discover himself. The main character,
the narrator, thinks that he is a very important person. He thinks that
his ideas will put an end to all the racial stereotypes in the world. The
narrator does not realize that he is virtually nonexistent to everyone.
The narrator goes through three states of sociality: invisible,
translucent, and visible.
At first, the narrator thinks of himself as being visible, however,
he is actually totally invisible to everyone he meets. Hardly anything he
does is accepted by the whites. He thinks people want to listen to him and
that they look up to his views. He is notably naïve, and even admits to it.
He forms and idea of what he wants to be when he is expelled from college.
That was when he realized he was not very important to anyone.
During the middle of the novel, the narrator's visibility
fluctuates; this symbolizes a change. He is slowly realizing that he is
really invisible to everyone. When the narrator was speaking with Mr.
Emerson about a job, Mr. Emerson said "...I happen to know of a possible job
at Liberty Paints. My father has sent several fellows there...You should
try--" and the narrator's reply was a shut door. This shows that the
narrator knows he is not entirely visible or important to everyone. He had
then realized that he is just a player in a game.
In the end of the novel, the narrator sees that he is visible only
to certain people. Nobody cares what he does, as long as he does what is
expected. Towards the end of the novel, the narrator shows that he
understands his status with the white people when he refuses to consent to
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sexual intercourse with a white woman.
The narrator actually does find himself. In the prologue, he says
"I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until
after discovering my invisibility." This shows that he has found himself
and that he knows his status with the whites. He sees that his purpose in
life is to follow the orders of white people; to be invisible.