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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.