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The Invisible Man Analysis

The Invisible Man Analysis

The Invisible Man Analysisresearch paper due and don't know how to start it? How about like this?

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a 1952 novel about the nature of a black man's role in society, and won Ellison the National Book Award in 1953. The novel centers on an anonymous African American man, and is a look at his entire life, during which he feels he has spent most of his time being invisible to society as a whole. An excellent student, the main character (who is also the narrator) attends college but is kicked out when circumstances beyond his control affect funding. He then gets a job, but is given electroshock therapy when the job goes horribly awry; afterwards he joins a movement modeled on the Communist Party, but is set up to fail because - readers are given to believe - the leaders of that party don't actually want real change in the black community, which the narrator wishes to give. Chaos ensues, and the novel ends with the narrator trying to decide how best to pursue his life and ideals, then going forth to do so.

The Invisible Man is both honest and satirical in nature. Black society is portrayed as constantly at the whim of white society, and many motifs reinforce this, such as the narrator working for a paint company that manufactures "Optic White" paint. Other facets of the story are based on events or people from real life, such as the following:

  • The Brotherhood (the Communist Party)
  • His all-black college (the Tuskegee Institute)
  • His colleague Ras the Exhorter (Marcus Garvey)

On the whole, The Invisible Man is an ideological novel in that it explores the idea of self. As noted by Bloom, every major scene in the work dramatizes the gulf between the narrator and existing cultural and social beliefs. This ideological slant is given in his inability to secure the freedom and autonomy he seeks. For example, one road turns into a blind alley. Further, the narrator comes to the realization that his search for self is limited by the ideologies of others as well as overt racism.

The differing ideologies the narrator faces in the course of the book come from both individuals and institutions. He views the ideologies of the institutions as overly simplistic and incapable of dealing with the complexities of human beings. For instance, the ideology of the Brotherhood is presented as one based on trying to secure equality between the races although in actuality it prevents the black man from rising to his true potential. The Negro college also represents an ideology that is contradictory. The school is supposed to be one where the colored man can get a step up in the world. However, the narrator soon learns that the administrators of the school are more concerned with "appeasing its wealthy, white benefactors than in educating and nurturing its students" . The reader realizes the only thing Norton is truly interested in is "assuaging his guilt" by pretending to truly care for the welfare of the black students. The conflicting ideologies of individuals include those of Booker T. Washington and Ras. The ideology of Washington is geared toward integration while the ideology of Ras leans towards violence and separatism. Almost every important character the narrator meets tries to teach him the meaning of being black in a highly segregated society. And, each individual believes acting in any other way served as a betrayal to the black race as a whole. Time and time again the narrator seems more than willing to act as others around him want him to act. For the Brotherhood he is obedient; for the authority figures at the Negro college he is respectful; to the white men who gave him the scholarship he is grateful. In each case he looses sight of his goal to find his own sense of self in favor of pleasing those around him.

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