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The Invisible Man Essay

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Invisible Man # 1

At the start of Ralph Ellison's novel, we are introduced to a self-proclaimed "invisible man." The events that follow describe what forced the narrator to submit to this state. Initially portrayed as a naпve character, our nameless narrator lacks an authentic, true identity. Rather than simply developing his own, our narrator instead opts to alternate between new identities as he progresses through the city of Harlem. Each of the identities he adopts simply serves as his method of advancing in society. But ultimately, our narrator learns that "diversity is the word" (577), as he receives satisfaction in portraying an identity that falls short of society's expectations.

The America we live in today "is [one] woven of many strands" (577, contrary to the one the narrator inhabits. A society based on conformity forces the non-conformists to appear all the more evident. For someone outside of the "norm" is bound to be looked down upon. This then leads to racism, a concept greatly incorporated into Ellison's Invisible Man. Racism also serves as a gateway to the Invisible Man's individual identity. As he joins the Brotherhood, working within the ideology of the organization, he believes it will serve as an outlet that allows him to fight for racial equality. But he naively later learns that the Brotherhood simply sought to use him as a "token black man" in their project. Amazed that he was duped into fulfilling an inauthentic role, he appears "stunned...that [the Brotherhood] or anyone at that late date, could have named [him] and set [him] running" (568).

This racism then leads to false stereotypes. These stereotypes are even praised within the Invisible Man's race. They present their own theory of how the average black in America should act. Those who praise these theories each believe that anyone who acts contrary to their prescribed identities betray their race. The narrator's grandfather believes that the role of blacks consists of "overcom[ing] 'em with yeses, undermin[ing] 'em with grins, [and] agree[ing] 'em to death and destruction" (16). These were his last words to his son, wanting him to continue the "legacy". The narrator's college president praises a similar concept, as he believes that blacks can best achieve success by working diligently and adopting the speech and manners of whites. But while the narrator fails to do this following a mishap with one of the school's white trustees, the college president condemns him for "dragging



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