Existentialism in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Essay

Decent Essays
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man tells the story of an intelligent black man who has been oppressed by various people throughout his life. Ellison’s novel proves to be deeply existential, showing the essence of what it means to be a human being and actually existing with others while at the same time being independent. The nameless protagonist deals endlessly with authenticity, absurdity, and alienation—conditions Ellison links to the harsh realities of being black in America. This protagonist tries to find meaning in the life that he is living, but ultimately discovers that no place in the world . Meaning becomes illusive when forced to live with dehumanization. He finds himself unable to actualize being in a society that fails to see his…show more content…
After being thrown into a violent rebellion in the streets, the narrator "recognizes the absurdity of the whole night" and more broadly, "of the simple yet confounding complex arrangement of hope and desire, fear and hate, that has brought him here still running..." ( Ellison 559). Just the mere fact of being born black instead of white influences his desires and draws hatred against him. Still, he realizes "that it is better to live out one's own absurdity than to die for that of others...." He does not lapse into despair but considers his grandfather’s deathbed words—"Agree 'em to death and destruction"—in a new light: "affirm the principle on which the country was built" ( Ellison 574). The way to overcome absurdity is to say yes to the world, to take responsibility for society’s wrongdoings and transcend them instead of resigning himself to invisibility. Eventually, as the novel nears its conclusion, he begins to recognize and acknowledge the absurdity The narrator believes that his alienation is forced because he is perceived to be invisible. Even though this may seem like a bad thing, he turns inwards to embrace his invisibility and later to find his own identity. The statement “I am an invisible man” speaks out loud (Ellison 1). It speaks for everyone but is often disregarded because of its simple nature. To some degree, it can be said that his alienation was put upon him because of his disregard to society (Twagalimana). He is
Get Access