Invisible Man Literary Analysis

Superior Essays
Literary Analysis of Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” is narrated in the first person by an unnamed African American male who struggles to find his identity and succeed in a racially-divided society that works to constrict him to stereotype and prejudice. The readers witness the narrator’s growth from a naive and blinded ignorance to consciousness of his individuality. The narrator attempts to define himself through the standards and presumptions prescribed to him. He later recognizes that each time he works to conform to an identity, his ability to be an individual is limited and it forces him to play an inauthentic part. The author uses metaphors, symbolism, and characterization to portray the literal and figurative blindness
…show more content…
He is invited to give the same speech at a local hotel to the town 's leading white citizens. However, when he arrives at the hotel, the narrator is forced to participate in a blindfolded battle royal with nine of his classmates. This event exhibits one of the recurring themes of the novel: blindness shields from reality and fosters ignorance. The white men watching this boxing event were figuratively blinded as they saw a racial stereotype: the African American boys as savage animals only providing them entertainment. The blindfolds also represent the boys’ figurative and literal blindness as they were unable to see through the false benevolence that concealed the men’s racist motives. He faintly recognized their ulterior motives when the boys were fighting for what appeared to be gold coins on an electrically charged rug, “Suddenly I saw a boy lifted into the air and dropped on his back landing flush upon the charged rug, heard him yell and saw him literally dance upon his back”. This scene represents the servility of blacks toward whites, an image that emphasizes powerlessness and conformity. After this humiliating scene, the narrator is allowed to give his speech in front of the drunken white men who disregard him until he accidentally uses the phrase "social equality" while presenting Booker.T.Washington 's 1895 Atlanta Exposition address, urging blacks to accept "social …show more content…
Bledsoe after being expelled from the college and sent to New York, a fruitless attempt to find a job. The supposed letters of recommendation turned out to entail the exact thing he was worried about in his dream. The narrator finds a job at the Liberty Paints Plant, serving as a metaphor to represent the social construct, racial inequality, and white superiority in this society. One of the workers says, “Our white is so white you can paint a chunka coal and you’d have to crack it open with a sledgehammer to prove it wasn’t white clear through.” By emphasizing that even the blackest of black can be covered up, it symbolizes the ideology that black identity is modified by white culture. As a result, their sense of individuality is concealed and belittled as black women and men conform in efforts to gain acceptance and economic advancement. Brockway, one of the workers at the Liberty Plant, perpetuates this ideology. He fights against the efforts of the labor union to gain equality, as he is blinded by the hopes of retaining his

Related Documents

  • Great Essays

    He smashes it as he turns a new corner in his life, realizing that he won’t ever be valued within a working white community, and so should join the brotherhood. Later, when the narrator sees Clifton performing on the street with a sambo doll, another racist caricature, he says, “I looked at the doll and felt my throat constrict”(433). The narrator almost stops breathing at the sight of this image, even more extreme than smashing it. Clifton’s progression from fighting for racial equality to willfully perpetuating this racist representation of black people is a wake up call to the narrator. This one incident with the doll sets off a chain of events that makes the narrator realize that the brotherhood is using his blackness for their gain, that it is not his own.…

    • 1721 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Nevertheless, not only society sees him as invisible, but he also gives up on himself, letting stereotypes rather than actions to describe him, this is why even though at first he is a model African American citizen, who is smart and humble, he then beliefs that being the “ideal black man” is not worthy, and that he must give up his identity and surrender to the white man to have a better life. Even though the narrator encounters different groups that seek to preserve African American identity, or their version of it, as the “Brotherhood,” he realizes…

    • 1536 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    Invisible Man Book Report

    • 1801 Words
    • 8 Pages

    He says that he goes underground to tell the story of his life and how people refuse to see him. The narrator is a gifted public speaker and because of that he gets the opportunity to deliver a speech in front of many important white men. As a reward, they give him a scholarship to a prestigious African-American college . However, this only occurs after he fights in a battle royal with other black men. Then, they fight for fake coins on a electrical rug and causes the men to jump as the electric current runs through their body.…

    • 1801 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The white men made the boys blind folded as a way to exhibit their hatred towards the boys. Blindfolded the boys could randomly hit one another by following the instruction of the white authority. Though the boys were blindfolded, the white men were the oneS actually blind in the story, because they failed to see the black boys’ talent because their mind is occupied with…

    • 799 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    After the trial Scout tries to explain to Dill why Mr. Gilmer was being so mean and rude to Tom Robinson in the quote “The way that man called him ‘boy’ all the time an’ sneered at him, an’ looked around at the jury every time he answered-’ ‘Well, Dill, after all he’s just a negro”. (Lee 199) The only explanation is this; because discrimination against colored people has caused it to be okay in a courtroom, for lawyers to treat those like Tom with disrespect. Scout describes the scene where the controversial final verdict is announced in the quote “A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson. The foreman handed a piece of paper to Mr. Tate who handed it to the clerk who handed it to the judge… I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty...guilty...guilty…” I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them”.…

    • 1340 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Tom Robinson, a character in To Kill A Mockingbird, is incessantly looked down upon due to his skin color, a factor that he has no control over. The story depicts Tom being accused of a crime that he didn’t commit. All due to the community assuming that it’s typical for a negro man to undertake a felony, he’s forced to suffer through unwanted and undeserved hardships. Tom haplessly had the disadvantage of being a colored man. “‘In our courts, when it's a white man's word against a black man's, the white man always wins.’” (Lee 295) In this regard, the accusations led to a devastating trial.…

    • 242 Words
    • 1 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    The effects of racism could be described as: “Racism and racial prejudice impede or prevent the object of racism to achieve his or her full potential as a human being” (Hampton et. all). One example of the narrator being belittled in the novel is when he is made to participate in the Battle Royal for a chance to read his speech. He is humiliated by the school superintendent and other white, wealthy men by being forced to fight other African American boys. They also electrocute the boys by making them beg for money so to speak, by placing metal on an electric rug and saying they can keep whatever they grab, knowing that they are not well-off and that they need the money.…

    • 1695 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    While many are aware of the racism that divides whites and blacks, few know the intensity of the division. In the beginning of his story, Invisible Man, several black boys are put into a boxing ring to fight until severe injuries. Many white men are sitting around the ring, cheering on the black boys, encouraging them to wound each other. This ruins the self-image and self-esteem of the black boys, while demonstrating the both physical and mental divide between whites and blacks, because the boys are physically in a specific area designated by the men, and mentally because they have now become a toy for the men to play with for entertainment. By using physical metaphors to explain the man-made division between blacks and whites, Ellison…

    • 1294 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    He would try to represent himself as a person to stand out only to be awkwardly entered into and thwarted through with bias remarks. Throughout this arc of the novel, we approach a huge shift of racism that represents the grandfather’s quote mention earlier. The Reader 's view a hierarchy, where the whites use the black as a tool of entertainment and such. This segment also incorporates the dead values of society as the narrator was promised a speech, but the speech was blurred out till the end, having to give his speech in the wounds of himself, leaving himself to fall below the white superiority, as Irving Howe, Jewish American literary and social critic, explains it “"Practical jokes," humiliations, terrors--and then the boy delivers a prepared speech of gratitude to his white benefactors” (Howe) Showing the domination the whites have over the…

    • 1387 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Great Essays

    However this story is unique as it is not one of the main characters that becomes truly evil, but those around him. The story is about a young black man that has been invited to a club to present his speech to some of the town’s prominent white men. Once he arrives he is forced into taking part in the battle royal and at this point we see those around him starting to become evil. Division, dissension and quarreling are obvious as soon as the boys began to fight as everyone in the room begins to yell out insults against the boys and fight with each others over elements of the fight. Not only are the white men insulting the different blacks in the ring but the men in the ring itself are fighting without remorse.…

    • 1434 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Great Essays

Related Topics