Betrayal of Self in Ellison's Invisible Man Essay

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Betrayal of Self in Ellison's Invisible Man

In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, the nameless narrator is betrayed by a handful of different characters--for this reason his life remains in a constant state of upheaval throughout the novel. Confusion and a lack of personal vision cause the "Invisible Man" to trust many characters whose designs for him are less than virtuous. Oftentimes these characters betray the Invisible Man, whose reactions to said betrayals form the greater part of the novel. The narrator's deference to others' wishes and ideals impels his hapless existence. Essentially, betrayal of relationship necessitates the Invisible Man's mobility and movement because of his continual deference to others.
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Also the aforementioned dream sequence exemplifies a small act of deference, a trait that ultimately contributes to the narrator's undoing. In this case, the narrator blindly follows his grandfather's orders to open the briefcase and the envelopes therein--apparently he defers he in dreams. Invisible Man never questions his grandfather's motives in having him open these articles just as he never questions anyone's motives in having him do anything until it's far too late. Throughout the novel other characters control him like a puppet and just as the dream prophesizes he always keeps running.

The Invisible Man's pattern of deference, betrayal, and then movement (or some variation thereof) begins with the event to which I alluded earlier. Before he dreams of his grandfather and the briefcase, the narrator acquires that briefcase by participating in a dubious "battle royal." A group of white men betray him after inviting him to speak at their Men's Club; this invitation causes the narrator to feel honored, however his feelings soon turn to shock once he realizes that the men desire for him to participate in a demeaning spectacle--without regard for his self-respect he defers to their wishes and participates. They lead him to a boxing ring filled with many other young black men, blindfold him, and then tell him to fight. Hereafter Invisible Man endures several other
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