Invisible Identity In The Invisible Man
12 AP English
13 January 2016
The Invisible Identity: A Black Man’s Struggle for Self-Discovery
The Invisible Man states early on that No, he is not actually invisible. Instead, his invisibility stems from the inability of others to see him as he truly is. Ralph Ellison’s novel, The Invisible Man, focuses on the adventures of this unnamed “invisible” man as he tries, and fails repeatedly, to discover himself. Ellison uses the Invisible Man’s interactions with racial tensions of a 1930’s America to illustrate that subscribing to a certain stereotype is detrimental to succeeding in the search for individual identity.
It seems that everyone has a use for the Invisible Man. The white men at the Battle Royal use him …show more content…
Ras the Destroyer and the Dean are on opposite ends of the spectrum in relation to their views on black and white interactions, the first believing in violence as a solution to racism and the latter believing that climbing up the social ladder is the path to equality. Ultimately, both fit a certain stereotype of the black American. According to Warren French, stereotypes are defined by the oppressive race in a society; in this context, the oppressive race will be white Americans. The Dean, who is willing to sacrifice the narrator to protect his status, perfectly fits the stereotype of a loyal slave. Ras the Destroyer starts violent riots to protect an extreme ideology that ultimately reaffirms the angry black stereotype. Throughout the novel, the narrator is constantly pulled between these two polarized racial stereotypes, his struggle being echoed in times like the Battle Royal where he is forced to represent both sides. In the end, the Invisible man’s constant struggle was "wearing on [his] nerves" (Ellison 3). He realized that by African Americans like Ras and the Dean limiting who they are to their color and encouraging stereotypes, these two very powerful men hinder the search for self identity among their community. Racism is battled not buy big gestures and riots, or separating oneself from the “unsavory” kind of African Americans (Ellison 19). In The Invisible Man, …show more content…
The narrator thought he "was becoming someone else" when he acquired his new Brotherhood name, a new identity to try (Ellison 328). It is strange then, even when he gets recognition and fame, he is not content. This is because he is only recognized his false identity, one that was handed to him by another man. His identity positions him as the center of attention in crowds of thousands, yet he remains unseen. Ironically, it is during his allegiance to the Brotherhood that he feels most alone. It is during this time that the narrator starts to take on the identity of Rinehart, “a consummate manipulator of surfaces, pimp, runner, lover, the preacher. He is all things to all people” (Sheokand). At first an escape method, the protagonist comes to find the idea of Rinehart appealing because Rinehart is, by definition, a fluid identity. He becomes, maybe for the first time in his life, unaccountable for his responsibility to his white and black benefactors. In the end, nobody cares who the Invisible Man really is or what he does, as long as it is expected. The white men, for example, in the Battle Royal are not bothered by his speech until the Invisible Man accidentally says “equality”. The Brotherhood accepts him until he steps out of line. By subscribing to their assigned identity of him, the Invisible Man limits himself to a two dimensional characterization that is simply not