Symbolism In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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Throughout Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the narrator has striven to accomplish things in the world and become successful by going through the existing white power structure. He manages to get a scholarship to a college, meet prominent people in New York, and become a speaker for the Brotherhood. Yet, each ‘success’ comes with its failures: he is expelled from the college when he shows an influential donor an incestuous family and takes him to a brothel where a fight ensues; the powerful men he tries to get a job from are told not to hire him in a letter the narrator himself delivers to them; and the Brotherhood is actually trying to use him to incite race violence. Because of these experiences, the narrator realizes that he cannot succeed …show more content…
It shows how they have all let the men blind them so that they can all fight each other without seeing each other or what they are doing. This symbolizes how the white society tries to pit African Americans against each other so that they futilely fight amongst themselves instead of uniting against their oppression. Furthermore, the blindfold is even described as white, emphasizing white men’s role in keeping on the blindfold. Moreover, the scab imagery shows that the internal blindness is almost a wound in the men, something that would hurt them if they would try to remove it but would provide relief and freedom if they could get through the pain and cast it off. The narrator further shows his blindness and feelings of superiority when he asks his opponent in the fight to fake losing, and then responds to the refusal by asking his adversary if he wants to win and hurt him “For them?” (24). Instead of faking the loss himself, the narrator asks the other boy to fake losing because he feels that he is worth more because he is treated marginally better by the white men. Furthermore, his …show more content…
First, the narrator finally connects the briefcase with his capitulation, and he realizes that he has allowed the white men to control his life. He shows this when he says to some white men that want to see what he has in his briefcase, “Ha! Ha! I’ve had you in my brief case all the time and you didn’t know me then and can’t see me now” (566). The narrator realizes that the white men whose bidding he followed did not see him as he was and instead only viewed him as they wanted to and used him to get what they desired. He also connects the things inside his briefcase, which earlier he had been treasuring and willingly carrying around with him everywhere, as devices that were used to keep him down and as a sign of his controlment. This is shown when the narrator starts burning the papers he carried in order to get light in the coal cellar he is stuck in: “I started with my high-school diploma, applying one precious match with a feeling of remote irony, even smiling as I saw the swift but feeble light push back the gloom...I realized that to light my way out I would have to burn every paper in the brief case” (567-568). The narrator’s situation of being stuck in a pitch dark room and having to burn those documents given to him by white men parallels the idea of the narrator having to cast of white influence in order to actually see the world he is in.

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