The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a novel that explores racism in the 1930’s through the eyes of the narrator, a young black man. The novel describes the story of a young unnamed black man in the 1930’s that is very hopeful for his future, but fails to realize how prominent racism is in the United States. This naivety soon gets him expelled when he reviles his identity to a white peer. After this disheartening incident occurs the narrator is forced to move to Harlem, New York, and becomes the spokesmen for the Communist Party, known as the Brotherhood.
Yet, as he works for the organization he still finds himself lost in this world which he is yet to know. This position puts himself in grave dangers with political enemies and racial purists who force him to face the truth of racism and the absence of his identity.
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As he learns more about himself and the world around him he gets caught up in a violent riot which drives him into a manhole. In the desolate solitude and the midnight darkness he begins to discover his identity and how transparent he was. Then he vows to write his life story, and only when it is complete will he enter the world above.
In his autobiography he details his life affairs, a purposeful theme, and a vital mood. Fascinatingly the main character of the Invisible Man has no name and the book is personally narrated and written by him and it recalls his story as the “invisible man” because throughout the story he seems to be invisible due to racial stereotypes and mistreatment. He writes about the racial inequality throughout the book very vividly, and one occasion of racial injustice is when the narrator is found to be a colored man and immediately banished him from the college.
This blatant inequality outraged the orator and opens him to the cruelties of a society fueled by racism. This event is believed to have revealed to him the true nature of the world and challenged him to begin to live on his instinct and remove his ignorance. When the narrator comes to this realization he moves to Harlem and becomes a vital spokesperson to a communist party called the Brotherhood, but finds himself surrounded by racism even in his on organization. Thanks to his immense intellect he grows from his experiences and seeks a solution to the shackles of discrimination. It is not until he is forced to live in the sewers that his action becoming impactful especially after he writes his autobiography and discovers his identity. This revelation leads the narrator to live a life geared towards responsibly and effectively change society with all his abilities. There are a number of themes to be found in the Invisible Man and the amount of wisdom that can be identified in the orator’s anguishes is both useful and vital to not only the reader, but the people as a whole.
One of the most critical ideas is that tragic ordeals and experiences build people for better or worse. This is prominently displayed at the end of the novel when the narrator finally decides to dwell on his past experiences and writes his autobiography. Only when this occurs do we see the author become a selfless man on the goal of changing discrimination in society. Another theme in the story is that racism is an obstacle of not only individuals, but society. Throughout the story it is obvious that the narrator is having an inner struggle trying to discover who he is, but is barricaded by racism.
It is not until the narrator traveled from community to community that he began to understand the struggle he had been living for all his life. This struggle is to find your own path and commit to it with your talents and abilities. These are the people who develop and transform society and understand that they are interdependent to others like themselves. The mood throughout the Invisible Man is crucial to portraying the message and exaggerating the importance events within the books.
For instance, when the narrator is entering the school hopeful for his future the mood is very surreal and dream-like, but once the narrator is forced out of school the mood slowly becomes disheartening and gradually gets more and more nightmarish as the book continues until he discovers his true identity at least. The bleakest mood in the book is definitely when the orator is working for pennies in the Liberty Paints Plant and is basically enslaved. Yet, throughout the story the mood somehow had a slight sliver of optimism no matter the situation. The author even uses the mood as both a reflection of his past and a foreshadowing mechanism.
A great testimony to this is when the narrator is finally in college he sense a feeling of despair and loneliness. This obviously foreshadows his removal from the college and his eventual exile to New York for work. No matter how or when different moods are used in the novel it is essential to the book and how the readers relate to the story. Overall this book is very exceptional. It definitely provides a very thorough and personal background of racism in the 30’s. It also documents very well the effects of racism on individuals and shows us the strain it places on a community and a society.
I honestly chose this book expecting it to be about the actual invisible man (horror monster) like in the old 30’s movie, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with this novel and its great message. I would say the largest bit of wisdom is not to let hatred and emotions become the basis of what we act on, but rather educated thoughts and ideas to derive action. All in all I would recommend this book to anyone interested on the topic and I am very joyful this is the book that I actually read instead of what I thought it was.