Invisibility Over Negation in Invisible Man
Early on in Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison's nameless narrator recalls a Sunday afternoon in his campus chapel. With aspirations not unlike those of Silas Snobden's office boy, he gazes up from his pew to further extol a platform lined with Horatio Alger proof-positives, millionaires who have realized the American Dream. For the narrator, it is a reality closer and kinder than prayer can provide: all he need do to achieve what they have is work hard enough. At this point, the narrator cannot be faulted for such delusions, he is not yet alive, he has not yet recognized his invisibility. This discovery takes twenty years to unfold. When it does, he is underground, immersed…show more content…
Therefore, the negation of the negation should result in an egalitarian society. But Ellison's story debunks this dialectical strategy by suggesting the only thing that would come from a Brotherhood like the one depicted is a negation of the black man. Rather than be lifted to the privileged position already held by whites, the black identity would be completely usurped. In light of both myths, Horatio Alger's capitalist fancies and Marxist-Hegelian relief, the only answer, then, is to remain invisible until a better world is unearthed. This is Ellison's more complex polemic, a by-product of the American theme he revisits so sublimely.
Ironically, the narrator is recruited by the Brotherhood only after a fervid display of individualism. He forces his way through a hostile tenement crowd and prevents a white man's shooting with a speech. The throng of fellow invisibles will not budge until an elderly evicted couple is permitted back inside their apartment. His words soften the mob with inspiration. Unlike his well-rehearsed valedictorian speech at the battle royal bloodbath, this one is spontaneous and brave enough to pronounce equality and a method: organization. The royal's stagful of Southern elites would have lynched the narrator for such words, as they almost do when he