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Invisible Man Essay: Importance of Setting

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The Importance of Setting in Invisible Man

The Liberty Paint Factory in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man provides the setting for a very significant chain of events in the novel. In addition, it provides many symbols which will influence a reader's interpretation. Some of those symbols are associated with the structure itself, with Mr. Kimbro, and with Mr. Lucius Brockway.

The first of many instances in these scenes that concern the invisible man and the symbolic role of white and black in the novel is when the narrator is sent to the paint factory by the young Mr. Emerson to try to find a job. Mr. Emerson, however, only sends him out of pity. The narrator arrives and immediately notices the huge
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The black formula is what makes the white paint into "Optic White", a much better, whiter, white. The formula, perhaps, represents the behind the scenes blacks that worked for the whites so that society persisted as it did in that time period. This idea will be touched upon once again later on in this series of scenes.

The invisible man then falls victim to a bad set of circumstances. He runs out of formula, and since Kimbro is not around, he tries to get himself some more. However, there are two containers with what appear to be the same kind of formulas, just with different markings. Naturally, the narrator uses his intuition and discovers that the two liquids in the tanks smell differently, and one smells like the formula he was using. He gets more of that solution, and continues his work, only to be scolded later by Kimbro that he chose the wrong one. Once again, Kimbro states that he does not want any thinkers working for him. He wants a submissive black that will just follow the "rules" established in his "society". After fixing his mistake, the narrator is sent back to the office to find another position: Kimbro does not want the invisible man working for him. In the scene that follows, the invisible man meets Mr. Lucius Brockway, deep down in the paint factory.

Mr. Brockway, a black man, can be thought of a symbol himself. He is the black formula that makes the
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