Essay on Identity in a Color-Conscious Society in Invisible Man

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Identity in a Color-Conscious Society in Invisible Man

Critics generally agree that Ralph Ellison's award winning novel, Invisible Man, is a work of genius, broad in its appeal and universal in its meaning. Its various themes have been stated as: "the geography of hell . . . the real brotherhood of man" (Morris 5), the emergence of Negro personality from the "fixed boundaries of southern life" (Bone 46), and "the search for human and national identity" (Major 17). Rich in symbolism and cleverly interwoven, Invisible Man's linear plot structure, told from the first-person, limited point of view, and framed by the Everyman protagonist from his subterranean home, follows the narrator in
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Critic Todd Libber points out that invisibility results from a perception each society holds to be true. What does not fit into that idea of "reality" is therefore assigned to "chaos" and is invisible (90).

The rising action takes root at the time when, on his death bed, the narrator's grandfather reveals to the family that the life of a black person living in a foreign "white" America has always been and still is a life of war and opposition, and to keep up the fight. This puzzles the young impressionable narrator, for his grandfather has been "the meekest of men" who, as is further revealed, believes himself to have been "a traitor and a spy" all these years, and that his meekness has, in actuality, been "a dangerous activity." The tactics of "agree 'em to death" and "undermine 'em with grins" (15,16) are the tools that enable the Negro to survive, in essence agreeing to invisibility, until blindness strikes down white society (Margolies 135). Thus, Grandfather's words establish and foreshadow the cultural beliefs, such as racism and bigotry that the young narrator will encounter in a prejudicial society as he navigates his way through the social mine fields of America.

Further, the surreal circus-like atmosphere that envelopes race relations in our country is no laughing matter. Indeed, as the narrator tucks away enough experiences for a gradual dawning to unfold