Identity And Social Expectations In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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African Americans have a history saturated with racism and prejudice. Ever since the end of the Civil War, they struggled to benefit from the rights the Constitution promised. Many people in the 1960s had a difficult time to accept African Americans as equals, and did everything in their power to prevent desegregation. Ralph Ellison via Invisible Man demonstrates this immoral view of society through the narrator’s internal conflict between a sense of identity and social expectations. When readers evaluate the social injustices presented in the Invisible Man, most usually reflect on how poorly society treated the narrator. However, these readers fail to consider the two conflicted emotions he had to face daily. The narrator was not only fighting the racists for racial equality, but also fighting a deep, internal conflict for an identity. He realizes the immorality behind segregation, but he also knows that his efforts to rebel against the system will ultimately result in failure. Thus, he finds it difficult to consider himself as a fellow human being or an inferior outcast. …show more content…
“Come out of the fog, young man. And remember you don`t have to be a complete fool in order to succeed. Play the game, but don`t believe in it--that much you owe yourself. Even if it lands you in a strait or a padded cell. Play the game, but play it your own way--part of the time at least.” (151) The narrator knows not only the depth of his situation, but also what he should be doing to avoid unwanted consequences. He knows the immorality of his position, yet cannot effectively change it. Instead, the narrator must take the only option possible and “play the game”. Despite facing severe oppression, he must have the courage to both “not believe in it” and “play it [his] own way”. Society`s expectations prevent him from becoming the human being he, one day, vows to

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