Ellison's Invisible Man: Invisibility, Vision, and Identity as Motifs

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Ralph Ellison incorporates many symbols into this novel, each providing a unique perspective on the narrative and supporting the themes of invisibility, vision and identity. These themes can many times generally symbolize the strength of the subconscious mind. In this novel I think that there are several visions that symbolize the narrator’s escape from reality, seeking comfort in memories of his childhood or times at the college, often occurring as he fades into his music. Ellison coincidences dreams and reality to redefine the surrealistic nature of the narrator’s experience and to showcase the differences between the realities of black life and the myth of the American dream. ? One thing I saw a lot of in this novel is people…show more content…
Treachery reinforces the ideas of blindness and invisibility, because any betrayal is essentially a sign that the betrayer willfully refuses to see his victim. The examples I found best were the narrator’s betrayals at the hands of the college (Dr. Bledsoe) and the Brotherhood (Brother Jack). Bledsoe poses as a figure representing the advancement of black Americans through education. In reality, however, he deliberately subordinates himself to whites and says that he would see every black man in America lynched before giving up his power. That he sends the narrator away with letters of supposed recommendation that, in reality, explicitly criticize the narrator demonstrates his objectionable desire to suppress black identity. The members of the Brotherhood betray the narrator in a number of deceptive ways, ranging from curbing his individuality to turning their backs on the problems of the poor blacks in Harlem. Jack, specifically, betrays the narrator by posing as a compassionate and helpful friend while secretly harboring racist prejudice against him and using him as a tool for the advancement of the Brotherhood’s ends. This novel’s betrayals function through deceit and secrecy because for the most part, they are invisible, and the narrator is blind to them until it is too late. “And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called

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