Powerful Characterization in The Invisible Man

Powerful Characterization in The Invisible Man

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        Ralph Ellison manages to develop a strong philosophy through

characterization in the Invisible Man. Ellison portrays the lonely

narrator's quest in struggling to search for his identity and an

understanding of his times. The well development of the character lays out

the foundation on the philosophy of finding and understanding himself.

Through a labyrinth of corruption and deceit the narrator undergoes events

that manage to enrich his experience and further contribute in his search

for himself.  Such scenes include the battle royal scene, the college,

Trueblood's visit, and the blueprint seller.


      The narrator at first never realizes his innocence. At first the

timid Invisible Man is invited to attend his scholarship award ceremony.

However with other Negroes he is rushed to the front of the ballroom where

a stripper frightens them by dancing in nude. After staging the "battle

royal" and attacking one another in response to the drunken shouts of the

rich white folk, the boy is brought to give his prepared oration of

gratitude to the white benefactors. An accidental remark to equality nearly

ruins him, but the narrator manages to survive and is given a briefcase

containing a scholarship to a Negro college. This acts a high peak in the

narrator's quest since it sets him for his struggle in searching for



      The narrator adores the college however is thrown out before long

by its president, Dr.Bledsoe, the great educator and leader of his race.

Ironically the narrator had seen Dr.Bledsoe as an idol aiming to gradually

impersonate him. He was expelled for permitting, Mr.Norton , one of the

college founders into the slave quarters and the Golden Day bar.  After

that incident the Invisible Man goes through the sense that he is losing

his identity. This initiates an air of confusion as the narrator is now

brought in a quarrel against himself.


      In the prologue the Invisible Man quotes, "I was naïve...I was

looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which only I

could answer." The narrator is tempted to set out in the quest to search

for his identity. The prologue identified the theme to the readers. It was

however during Trueblood's visit that the character manages to learn about

his true background and roots. It is through such people, of his true

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Southern nature, that the narrator glimpses a view on himself. This is true

also when the Invisible Man encounters the blueprint seller who sang the

blues, a common song of the south. Although the Invisible Man was in the

North, he still found himself clinging on to the southerner, since he was

of his similar race.


      If the narrator succeeds in finding his own identity then he will

definitely be truthful to himself and the others. By finding his identity

the narrator has ensured friendships and encounters with many people, since

loneliness will be avoided. The Invisible Man's identity ensured him that

he had opposed the idea of manipulating the whites as "Gods" or "Forces"

through the "grins" and "yesses" while the whites manage to achieve their

destiny through their control over him.


      Through characterization Ellison has managed to reveal his

philosophy that dealt with struggling to find one's identity. The

characters have been developed in a sense that has them reflect one

another's traits and personalities. Through many encounters the narrator

begins to set out to find who he truly is. By questioning his everyday

living the narrator manages to progress in the quest to achieve his goal.

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