Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison

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Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, tells the story of a young, educated black man as he travels from the Deep South to the streets of Harlem, experiencing the oppression and the struggles of a dominantly white society. The narrator, who remains nameless throughout the entire novel, is on a search for his true identity. Along the way he meets many powerful white men who are more than willing to define him, often in the form of a document. While these papers seem to foreshadow good fortune for the narrator (whom I will refer to as IM), they are filled with nothing more than false dreams, and an underlying message to “keep this nigger- boy running.” The motif of documents is prevalent throughout Invisible Man, as IM accumulates several important papers such as his scholarship, his new Brotherhood identity, and the warning letter from Brother Jack. Each defines a social role, but together they show how the white men strive to keep IM “running a footrace against [himself]”(380). One of the first documents IM receives is his scholarship from the white men after the “battle royal”. This is one of the most pivotal documents in the novel, as without it, IM’s search for his identity would never begin. IM is overjoyed to receive a scholarship to the state college for Negroes from the big shot white men of his town. Even more, he is pleased that his yess’m-ing has finally paid off. This scholarship defines and sets IM apart from the rest of the black boys in his town, and gives him the

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