Race And Identity In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is a modern slave narrative. Through this book, the author and narrator challenge derogatory stereotypes of the white slave owner and the fearless slave showing how intelligent African Americans actually find themselves in the American Landscape (Mahoney 27). When reading the novel Invisible Man, it seems as if there are two novels within one book. There is the surface novel: the novel where the reader is exposed to the psychology of the characters, the emotions, and mood, relationship, and identity. Though this quality is never really found, it merely surfaces as the narrator loses one in exchange for another. Then, however, there is another novel, and this novel is the invisible novel (Bourassa 2). It is through…show more content…
The novel shows how throughout history, race determines what treatment people receive and can lead to an entire people group feeling invisible. The problematic of history, a shallow mechanistic smugness that blinds itself to the complexities of reality, especially that of racial and cultural difference, and being shown as scientific, is one of the things that create the invisibility of people in this novel (Bourassa 4). In Invisible Man, the narrator states, “Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of biochemical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition… A matter of the construction of their inner eye, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality” (Ellison 4). Through this quote, Ellison exposes how history, the root of the issue in the novel, molds the eyes and minds of people so they see skin color as a derogatory difference, or race, and allow it to make people invisible. To be black, especially for the narrator, is to be amorphous; to not fall in the sight of society, for white men to view one only for the advantageous actions which he/she can perform for the white men. In the case of the narrator, he stumbles through the book serving as merely a mindless spokesperson for the Brotherhood, Mary seeing him through her hopeful eyes as a future community leader, and being a sexual fantasy for the women of Harlem (Bourassa
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