Essay about Symbols in the Briefcase in “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

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Towards the end of the book “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the narrator who remains unnamed thought the entire book, risks his life to save a briefcase filled with seemingly random assorted items. But later in the book the narrator is forced to burn the items in his briefcase in order to find his way out of a sewer he gets stuck in. Closer reading reveals that the items in his briefcase are more than random assorted items, but instead are symbols. Each one of those symbols represents a point in the narrator’s life where he is either betrayed or made “invisible” by the people around him. Through the book the two main recurring themes are betrayal and invisibility and the narrator keeps these symbols with him because they represent who he …show more content…
The crowd continually asks him to repeat himself and at one point the narrator miss speaks and says “social equality” instead of “social responsibility.” This immediate arouses the whites in the crowd. When they yell threats at him he Denys what he said and claims that the blood in his mouth caused him to misspeak. In this incident the whites in the crowd immediately stop any variation from what they want to hear coming out of the mouth of an African American. This is another way that he is oppressed into being what people want him to be and therefore becoming invisible. The narrator also feels betrayed when he sees Clifton with the doll. At that time the narrator still considered himself a part of the brotherhood, and since the brotherhood would never allow such a thing to be sold, Clifton is betraying the brotherhood and also the narrator himself. Another symbolic item in the narrator’s briefcase is the Sambo doll that brother Clifton was selling illegally on the street. It is not the doll itself, but instead the circumstances surrounding Clifton’s death that make the doll significant. Before his death, the narrator meets brother Clifton, and describes him as the ideal man. He is educated, well dressed, muscular, and has a stylish swag about him, that the narrator admires. But we don’t know Clifton long before he is shot. Clifton suddenly drops from his original

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