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How The Idea Of Being Invisible Transforms From A Barrier To An Advantage For The Narrator In Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man."

1623 words - 7 pages

Note: I was unable to include the footnotes which correspond to the quotes used.Invisible Man EssayThroughout Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, the unnamed narrator constantly questions his identity in many ways. While his immediate concerns, such as why he was where he was or what he should do there, changed on a situational basis; he consistently put to question the idea of his "invisibility." Though the definition of invisibility was always constant to the narrator, that others could not and would not see or hear him, the impact and his resulting feelings towards invisibility changed as he grew and experienced more. At the outset of the novel, the narrator viewed his invisibility as a ...view middle of the document...

Bledsoe, was an educated man who gained his power through his studies and work at the college. This idea of the importance of education was furthered by the narrator's experience with Mr. Norton. Being a trustee of the college, his statement, "I have wealth and a reputation and prestige-all that is true," could only have strengthened the narrator's belief that a formal education would lead him to achieve these same qualities. The narrator's tendency to willingly accept the beliefs of others as his own was later apparent when he adopted communism almost immediately after being introduced to it. This self-proclaimed weakness was the source of his invisibility and crisis of identity, and will be important in showing the change in the significance of his invisibility.The initial association of emotion with invisibility came when he was first exposed to the idea. "You don't exist- can't you see that?" This question, posed by Dr. Bledsoe, suggested to the narrator that he would be helpless in any attempt to advance himself in society. Though resistant at first, the narrator soon took Dr. Bledsoe's statements as fact, exemplifying a case of the narrator buying in to what he was told. "I told myself, he's right." The conversation with Dr. Bledsoe left him "whirling about furiously within [himself], trying to deal with [Bledsoe], to fit what he was saying to what he had said." The narrator was filled with frustration and confusion here. Though the narrator did not have a full understanding of what it meant to be invisible at this point, the author clearly makes a point to show that the mere idea of being invisible was enough to arouse these unfavorable feelings within the narrator.Confusion was also apparent shortly after the narrator arrived in New York. "I felt that even when they were polite they hardly saw me"..."It was confusing. I did not know if it was desirable or undesirable." He was commenting here on his perception of the people as he walked down the street. Again, while he still did not fully know what it meant to be invisible here, his remark begs to his sense of invisibility and the confusion it caused him.The narrator's feelings caused by his invisibility only got worse as he learned to accept it. His acceptance came after, due to Dr. Bledsoe's betrayal, being denied a job in New York. The realization that Dr. Bledsoe's point concerning the narrator's helplessness may have been correct caused emotions of anger and revenge for the narrator. These emotions were displayed in the narrator's plan to return to the college solely to kill Dr. Bledsoe. The narrator's earlier feelings of confusion and frustration had formed into more severe, threatening ones once he came to accept and understand his invisibility better.Invisibility also worried the narrator early on in his understanding. The narrator's constant search for his identity was symbolized in an event causing the narrator to suffer from temporary amnesia after an accident at work. "Left...

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