Invisible Man Essay: Self-Identity in Invisible Man

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Self-Identity in Invisible Man

In the novel, Invisible Man, the main character carries around a briefcase throughout the entire story. All of the possessions that he carries in that briefcase are mementos from learning experiences. Throughout the novel, the Invisible Man is searching for his identity and later discovers that his identity is in those items.

As the narrator is leaving Mary's house for the Brotherhood, he sees a Negro-doll bank in his room. He is angry that the doll is holding a sign that read, "Feed me."

"For a second I stopped, feeling hate charging up within me, then dashed over and grabbed it, suddenly as enraged by the tolerance of lack of discrimination, or whatever, that allowed Mary to keep such
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One can not escape his culture. By placing the shattered bank pieces and chain link in his briefcase, the Invisible Man is adding to his own identity, his integrating heritage, and reforming his self-understanding.

The Sambo doll is another significant item in the narrator's briefcase, the kind that Clifton sold.

"Then I saw a fine black thread and pulled it from the frilled paper. There was a loop tied in the end. I slipped it over my finger and stood stretching it taut. And this time it danced. Clifton has been making it dance all the time and the black thread had been invisible" (Ellison 446).

The Sambo doll is a symbol of the Invisible Man's manipulation by society and the Brotherhood. With Clifton's death, the Invisible Man begins to realize that the Brotherhood will sacrifice any member to obtain their goal of unity. Discovering this truth about the Brotherhood, the narrator "wakes up" and begins to realize his role in the Brotherhood. The Invisible Man does not wish to be a puppet being told what to do and being used by the Brotherhood. Often one will not be able to see the situation he is in, until a significant event occurs to reveal the reality of it. Having the doll in his briefcase allowed the Invisible Man symbolizes that he can now see how he has been manipulated and used by others.

The Invisible Man tries on several different identities throughout the novel, but never finds the one that suits him. He allows others to tell him who