Betrayal In The Invisible Man Essay

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The patterns of trust and subsequent betrayal found in the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, serve to teach lessons about what it was like for African Americans in post-slavery America, when the book is set. The Invisible Man trusts easily and naively. Yet, despite working hard, he is betrayed by the institutions and people he looks up to as role models as they exploit his expectations for their own agenda. Overall, there are four strong examples of those taking advantage and hurting the Invisible Man. With each incident, he learns a lesson about how blatantly the black population is disregarded, along with being given an object that represents the underlying racism found in a society. The first betrayal, comments on the futility of hard work…show more content…
The friend, Todd Clifton, is selling Sambo dolls on the side of the road, a highly racist and derogatory doll that perpetuates the stereotype of blacks as non-human performers for other’s entertainment. Clifton, in contrast, was a handsome, intelligent, and politically active member of the Brotherhood who is shown to want to help Harlem and push for black and white equality. The Invisible Man is both shaken by Clifton's blatant betrayal of his own race and saddened, yet again, by the theme of black repression by those who claim to try and help. However, later he chooses to forgive Clifton at his funeral, thinking to himself “Yes, the dolls were obscene and his act a betrayal. But he was only a salesman not an inventor, and it was necessary that we make it known that the meaning of his death was greater than the incident or the object that caused it” (448). The Invisible Man understands that Clifton was as much entrapped by the system as he was. The inventor of the system is to blame, not the person who has to work with the system in order to succeed. The Sambo doll itself, that the Invisible Man picks up, represents the puppet-like control wielded over people to make them act as the very thing that further represses them. This incident causes the Invisible Man to cling further to the ideals of the Brotherhood, seeing it the only way to make himself known and “avoid being empty Sambo dolls”
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