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Invisible Man

Free «Invisible Man» Essay Sample

After the first publication of Invisible Man after the Second World War, American literature was reshaped entirely. It developed a variety of problems and themes with deep emotional and symbolical context. Individual identity faced complicated obstacles on its way to formation. The personality was suppressed and ruined due to rough social life. In his novel, Ralph Ellison presents a journey with some mysterious and fantastic context. Its main character is invisible to other people not because of some physical peculiarities but because the society refuses to see him. Despite the social pressure, tension, and racial inequality that he faces on his way, the narrator manages to arrive at his personal identity. Human inequality and limited freedom are ultimately caused by ideology and massive aggression. Ideology is a principle that forms racial hate and difficulties experienced by African Americans on their ways to personal identity. Although invisibility is presented as a defect of the personality, it becomes a key factor in the formation of citizenship and identity of the individual.


The book Invisible Man is an ultimately terrifying story of a black man, which describes his life and various communities he faces on the road to his identity formation. The character is born in the South and starts his journey from there, evaluating and uncovering differences and contrasts between the American South and North. While he is visible to himself, other people cannot see him because of the racial determinant. Although the reader finds the narrator living in the hole in the ground, which is a symbol of the American underground society, he is still presented as a polite, well-brought-up, intelligent, and good person who faces the conflict of banished social attitude. The narrator understands that only actions and his participation can make him visible. That is why he tries to make his road to the recognition of his visibility, but to achieve it, it is necessary for people around to know that he exists and for him to feel that this recognition is real.

Narrator’s Personality

The narrator is a classical stereotypical African American who has his fears and suffers from problems of racial inequality. He is educated as it was possible for the blacks at that time. He was taught about meanness position and place of African Americans in the American history as if they were absent in it at all. He feels some emptiness and omitted part in his education concerning the position of black people in the country who are entirely invisible to the society, policies, government, and future generations. The narrator describes the conflict of a human being within the setting of the American society and the obstacles he faces as a representative of the black population. The main character is taught to perceive whites as leading and supreme people because of the color of the skin, which was a concept of importance. He has to live with the idea of the omitted contribution of African Americans to the American society because they are considered an inferior nation. The character has secondary education and believes that he is an uneducated person, although his behavior and thinking prove that he has an exceptional mind and deep consciousness of a well-educated person who feels that there are some holes in history with artificially created myths and ideology of segregation. He concludes the position of African Americans during the historic events as destroyed reality: “Living outside the realm of history, there was no one to applaud their value and they themselves failed to understand it” (Ellison, 1995). Finishing his first stage of education, the narrator faces the first problems and stereotypes, destroying his dreams and plans.

Like the entire society, the main character perceives himself as a secondary person, as a stereotyped and defected human. Thus, it is necessary to admit that he recognizes his miserable position in the society and hates himself. Moreover, this self-hatred becomes a part of developing invisibility and leads to the loss of identity. The narrator admits that he is a human-like creature with biological and physical peculiarities, believes that he has defects, and considers himself a secondary animal that is useless for the state and the society. The loss of a human being consciousness is the first stage of developing invisibility. He recognizes his education and high level of knowledge but he accepts his diminished and non-valuable existence. The loss of the identity feeling is one of many themes covered in the novel. The problem is that the narrator does not feel and see his place and position in the society; he does not understand his role and his sense of identity as a citizen.


The loss of self-image and self-confidence leads to the complete ignorance of the main character as a citizen. Citizenship is not only a status of a person as a legal inhabitant of a state but also a social and personal resignation of personal necessity for the community. Total ignorance of people around and the main character’s unconfident assurance discredit his feeling of citizenship. Nevertheless, the narrator recognizes that African Americans have to fight for their self-affirmed citizen rights. The development of this idea concerns the position of the main character in the community of the Brotherhood. He wants to become a leader because of his intention to be useful for the black society. His internal conflict is controversial, as he understands that he is, actually, a citizen but cannot feel it in its full essence. A citizen of the USA can even become a president, but a black person cannot because of the color of the skin. Consequently, African Americans are not real citizens. The problem of the citizenship is controversial, and the author tries to reveal the absurdity of the citizenship position in America. The history rejects the citizenship of the black community and recognizes them as “madmen full of paranoid guile” (Ellison, 1995). In such a way, the author of the novel presents the most important motive of the book, namely the problem of blindness that diminishes the role of African Americans so that they become invisible even to themselves.

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Invisible Man shows the way American people intentionally refuse to see the black community as actual citizens. They do not want to see the truth and try to be blind to everything evil happening in their nation so that the black community becomes invisible and useless to them. There is no place for African Americans, as well as no perspectives, future, and career. They will never do something significant and will never become leaders of the nation because of their race and invisibility. Moreover, their recognition of themselves as a part of the defected race, as useless citizens, is the reason for invisibility. Although they live with the idea of being secondary people, the whites try to exploit their possibilities. Blindness is a key symbol of the novel and it can be found in every detail. For instance, the bronze statue of the college founder that has no eyes symbolizes blindness and instills this aspect in the consciousness of future civilizations. The narrator confirms the idea of total national blindness and describes his journey as “long and desperate and uncommonly blind” (Ellison, 1995). The main character proclaims the essential words of the novel, revealing the main theme of it: “Sisters! Brothers! We are the true patriots! The citizens of tomorrow’s world” (Ellison, 1995). However, he recognizes his invisibility because people do not want to see him.

Invisibility and Loss of Identity as a Human Being

From the perspective of the novel’s author, human identity can be formed in the society, and it is a mixture of self-confidence and perceptions of others. At the beginning of the narration, the main character recognizes that human identity cannot be formed without the perceptions of other people. The conflict of the narrator’s personality is his feelings and constant doubts whether he really exists. Sometimes he believes that he is a part of other people’s imagination, “a phantom of someone’s minds” (Ellison, 1995). The main character’s journey is a long search for personal visibility. He tries to convince everyone, including himself, that he is real. The idea of invisibility appears as a consequence of the evidence that the world is blind completely in all its dimensions. It is possible to assume that the motive of invisibility is secondary while the motive of blindness is primary. The aspect of social blindness is presented negatively. However, the concept of invisibility is uncertain and even unclear. It is more of a symbol of lost citizenship and a symbol of human being identity. Although invisibility is something negative in the aspect of social useless and unnecessary position, in some way, it is a great freedom. The symbol of invisibility opens new perspectives for a person not only to be free in the country that limits personal liberties but also to see the blindness of others. It is possible to assume that racial inequality gives the black community an absolute advantage, allowing its members to attain the feeling of freedom and realize its value, as well as enabling people of the black nation to see more than others do. The narrator recognizes his invisibility and advantages of it (Ellison, 1995). It gives him perspectives and safety. African Americans are able to see their enemies from the position of invisible humans and useless citizens, though they are limited in their self-performance and possibilities to change anything. Recognizing invisibility at the end of the book, the main character admits that it is a part of his identity. It is not a defect. Additionally, he sees that he is not only invisible but also formless (Ellison, 1995). This concept makes his way to identity formation take a long time until he realizes his advantages. Before, he had to submit to the order that the white society established for him and his black nation. However, he discovers something new and exceptional, namely invisible identity that cannot be seen. It is a culture and traditional life of African Americans, their jazz music, the territory of Harlem, and many other issues. Consequently, invisibility becomes a key factor in the recognition of personal identity and citizenship.

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Invisible Man is a complicated and symbolic narration of a person suffering from social blindness. Nevertheless, this blindness helps him to find his personal identity, cherish his nationality, and become an honorable part of it. The invisible man recognizes his advantages among people who are completely blind. The book presents a philosophical concept that demonstrates the identity formation under the conditions of racial segregation and social pressure. At the beginning of the novel, the main character accepts himself as a creature or a defected animal, while at the end of the narration, he realizes his advantages despite all the limitations and obstacles.

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