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The Invisible Man

Essay by   •  May 30, 2011  •  Essay  •  949 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,919 Views

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In our society we are constantly being judged by others. We are judged by the clothes we wear, the language we speak, the jobs we hold, where we live, but most importantly we are judged by the color of our skin. Many may argue that times of racism and discrimination based on skin color has gone, but this is not true. There are still racial stereotypes that are implemented, even now in 2011. There is no arguing that certain people live up to these stereotypes more often than they try to change it. In Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man , this idea of fearing ones reflection is an internal factor for the narrator. He fears his reflection because it forces him to identify himself and he fears that he will identify himself as what the white man wants him to be. This is a classic story of one's journey to self identification, in order to break away for the standards society has set on him. His ability to be invisible enables him to determine his own identity rather than the identity society forces on him with the label of being a black man. Ellison uses the narrator to express to the reader the psychological growth of an invisible man trying to identify himself. In the novel, the narrator's invisibility is a big part of who is and how he identifies himself. In order to understand how his invisibly is a result of fearing a reflection you may not want to see, we must examine closely the implications of this throughout the text and his journey.

This idea of invisibility as being a mechanism to either discover or oppress a reflection of one 's self is seen. While reading the novel, there is a sense of fear and timidness that makes the narrator an interesting character to read. He knows his past but yet manages to fall victim to the white men and their white superiority ideals. The narrator is intelligent and well spoken, but because he his black he still isn't good enough. In the very beginning of the novel, we are introduced to his supposed inferiority in the prologue. The narrator expresses how his invisibility often works as an advantage, but at the same time is a constant aggravation and reminder of who he is fighting against. He is fighting against himself and society. His invisibility works for him and against him, as it gives him the space to determine who he is, but also creates a thirst for others to notice him. On page 7, Ellison writes "I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility". At this point we see him set a stage for journey to asserting his identity. He accepts that his ability to feel invisible is part of who he is, regardless of how it has benefitted him. Not only is he trying to figure out who he is, he has to endure the racial tensions he faces in society. The lack of social and racial equality among whites and blacks is something plagues him and how he will ultimately identify himself. Ellison writes

It goes back a long way back,

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