Essay on Race in Invisible Man and Black Boy

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The Question of Race in Invisible Man and Black Boy

In the early twentieth century black American writers started employing modernist ways of argumentation to come up with possible answers to the race question. Two of the most outstanding figures of them on both, the literary and the political level, were Richard Wright, the "most important voice in black American literature for the first half of the twentieth century" (Norton, 548) and his contemporary Ralph Ellison, "one of the most footnoted writers in American literary history" (Norton, 700). In this paper I want to compare Wright's autobiography "Black Boy" with Ellison's novel "Invisible Man" and, in doing so, assess the effectiveness of their conclusions.

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All chapters of the protagonist's life end with the same kind of disappointment and contribute to his disillusionment. This finally leads him to believe that history is boomeranging and that society therefore can't be changed. No one except for him (and a crazy doctor) seems to have the necessary distance to see what is really wrong with the world and so he hides away into a dark hole. There he stays, literally enlightened by 1,369 light bulbs, stealing power from the power plant and enjoying his individuality.

Richard Wright chooses the other way. Cynicism is only a period in his life. From his early childhood on he has always had a strong will and successfully resisted all attempts to break him. Instead of obeying to authorities and silently accepting the social circumstances of his life he has always fought back. Cynicism means passivity and Wright can't afford to end up in passivity, be it only because, other than the invisible man, he has to care for his family. Driven by great physical and intellectual hunger he grimly swims against the current and eventually discovers that he is not the only victim of society. This brings him to a question that is to become the basis for an ideology he will follow the rest of his life: Maybe if all these people unite and raise their voices they will be heard? Maybe together they have the power to change society? He finds that these ideas form the

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