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Invisible Man Essay: Identity and Invisibility

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Identity and Invisibility in Invisible Man

It is not necessary to be a racist to impose 'invisibility" upon another person. Ignoring someone or acting as if we had not seen him or her, because they make us feel uncomfortable, is the same as pretending that he or she does not exist. "Invisibility" is what the main character of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man called it when others would not recognize or acknowledge him as a person.

The narrator describes his invisibility by saying, "I am invisible ... simply because people refuse to see me." Throughout the Prologue, the narrator likens his invisibility to such things as "the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows." He later explains that he is "neither dead
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Upon first meeting Lucius Brockway, another worker, Lucius only thought of the narrator as a threat to his (Lucius') job. Despite the narrator's constant explanation of merely being sent to assist Lucius, Brockway repeatedly questioned the narrator on what his purpose was in being there. During Brockway's questioning, not once did he ask what the narrator's name was. To Brockway, the only thing that was important was that the narrator was nothing more than a threat. Identity is only in the reflection of the immediate surrounding that viewers can relate. In this particular case, the narrator's identity is derived from Brockway's perception of him (the narrator) being a threat.

A person's identity is never the same, in comparison to the many people that view that person. This is something that the narrator recognizes but does not fully understand. While at the University, the narrator was only a petty "black educated fool" in the eyes of Dr. Bledsoe. At the same time, Mr. Norton (a white trustee of the university) saw the narrator as being an object, who along with his "people, were somehow closely connected with [his (Mr. Norton's)] destiny." (Ellison 41) To the members of the Brotherhood, the narrator is only what they have designed him to be: someone who "was not hired to think," but to speak only when ordered to do so by the committee who "makes [his] decisions."
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