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The Invisible Man A Mask For A

1610 words - 7 pages

As readers of "The Invisible Man," we can all see some part of ourselves reflected in Ellison's character. Throughout the novel, the Invisible man searches for his identity, and for what he can believe in. He goes through many steps, and at each point in his journey, he seems to be wearing a different 'mask.' Each mask carries with it a different persona and set of beliefs with it that all serve to shape the character. These are masks that many of us have also put on at one time or another, too. Within the Invisible Man, we can see ourselves. Hopefully, we can also learn from him, and see the faults within him, and maybe ourselves.The Invisible Man starts out the book by illustrating his ...view middle of the document...

His illusion that, if he works hard, he is sure to succeed is very well imprinted in his brain. Even Norton admits the Invisible Man has a certain machine-like obedience to him in the following dialogue between Norton and the Invisible Man. "'Will you need me this evening sir?' 'No, I won't be needing the machine.' 'I could drive you to the station, sir.'" (108) The Invisible Man here seems like a puppy dog eager to play fetch with his master, and even Norton seems to be a little frustrated at the Invisible Man's subservience. Brockway also comments on Invisible Man's status and his own when he says, "We the machines inside the machine." (217) The Invisible Man's unconditional obedience to others is indeed unnaturally machine-like.Then, the Invisible Man puts on a mask of violence. The Invisible Man angers after Bledsoe calls him a ni---r and expels him from the college. "It must have happened when the metal struck the desk, for suddenly I was leaning toward him, shouting with outrage." (141) Even the Invisible Man is surprised at his anger, indicating that his actions are not characteristic of his true self, but instead are just part of another mask he is trying on. After the Invisible Man learns of Bledsoe's insulting "recommendation" letters, he becomes very emotional. He "felt numb . . and was laughing. When [he] stopped, gasping for breath, [he] decided . . . [to] go back and kill Bledsoe." (194) This drastic emotional reaction is quite different from the Invisible Man's normal behavior. It is as if the Invisible Man has become disgusted with his previous mask of servility, has thrown it on the floor, and then taken up an entirely different mask of aggression, especially against blacks who seem to want the Invisible Man to just "stay in his place." The next mask the Invisible Man puts on is one of a peaceful, yet fervent orator. The Invisible Man's first public speaking occurs in front of a home whose elderly owners are being evicted. Although he appears to be speaking against taking action against the landlords, the effect is the opposite. He "stood on the steps facing those in front [of the crowd], talking rapidly without thought but out of my clashing emotions. They stopped, listening." (279) Here he discovers that he has a talent for speaking, and it seems to be more effective than his previously violent acts, so he switches his mask yet again. Brother Jack hires the Invisible Man to work for the Brotherhood, and gives him a new name, telling him, "You must put aside your past . . . This is your new identity."(309) With this new name, Jack also hands the Invisible Man a new mask, very similar to the one the Invisible Man adopted while speaking at the Provos' home, but this one is fastened in place with a thick band of money and security. At his first public speaking for the Brotherhood, the Invisible Man is an immense success, although he does not speak exactly the way the Brotherhood wants him to. He begins to forget the...

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