Significance of the Narrator's Invisibility in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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The narrator’s invisibility first comes up in Chapter One, where he is invited to a community meeting consisting of prestigious white citizens. He comes to this meeting believing that he is to give a speech to represent his high school. He believes that in dictating a speech, the narrator will be recognized by the white community for his intelligence. Unfortunately, he is turned into entertainment when he is forced to fight in a “battle royal” with other black men. After being beaten blindfolded and pushed into an electrocuted carpet, the narrator still gathers up the strength to dictate his speech, only to find the white men “still [talking] and still [laughing], as though deaf with cotton in dirty ears” (p30). The author Ralph Ellison …show more content…
He lets himself be ridiculed by turning into a puppet for the ignorant white men for entertainment purposes. Still, he holds onto the assumption that if he degrades himself, he will be rewarded in the end. As a result, the narrator does not advance in his journey to find his identity, but rather degrades himself even more and makes him dependent on other’s opinions. Furthermore, the narrator appears invisible to others and to himself during his time as a member of the Brotherhood, an organization that appears in the novel as a euphemism to the Communist Party in real life. The narrator joins the Brotherhood in the hopes of creating an identity for himself within the organization by acquiring recognition as a prestigious black leader. He is under the assumption that the Brotherhood recognizes his ideas, his individuality, and soon becomes dedicated and loyal to their cause. However, the narrator does not discover the Brotherhood’s true intentions until after Brother Clifton’s funeral. The Brotherhood turns against the narrator for his belligerent speech at the funeral that they fear would destroy their reputation. The narrator retaliates by accusing the Brotherhood of being “the great white father” of Harlem. The “naked and old and rotten” truth comes out when the committee tells him he was hired to talk, not to think. The narrator later learns how committed the Brotherhood is to their cause with the discovery of