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Im's Briefcase In Invisible Man

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Many believe that human lives are defined in moments; they are days that place an imbedded footprint in the human timeline and are hard to wash away. Along with those moments, there are more provoking objects that stay longer and plant themselves deeper than a memory ever could. It is a mother’s hairpin given on a wedding day, a grandfather’s pocket watch received before he died, or a beloved brother’s old t-shirt passed down. In any case, the articles and trinkets humans encounter take refuge in their lives and seem to become a part of who they are. In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the narrator, referred to as IM, comes across a briefcase that defines him far greater than any day of his life. It is throughout the novel that IM’s briefcase…show more content…
When his speech is finished and he receives praise for telling the white men what they want to hear, they award IM with a “gleaming calfskin briefcase” from Shad Whitemore (32). Needless to say, the fact that he receives the gift from a man named “white” and “more” is no coincidence; it is a prelude to the symphony that is IM, a nod to the ringleader whom is placed in control of IM’s destiny. His fate has already been tucked into the briefcase and given to him only moments after being forced into a battle. IM “...felt an importance that [he] had never dreamed” (32); this feeling blinds him from the racial discrimination he endured. Unbeknownst to IM, this sense of significance is all an illusion. The briefcase is no more than a cage confining disillusioned hopes of grandeur. Trapped inside is a scholarship to the state college for African Americans. To IM, is a prodigious honor; it is a new hope for him to live a life he dreams of. This moment constitutes the base principle of his disillusionment. IM is picturing a purposeful life where he can create an impact on society with his brand new briefcase and well woven speeches. He carries the briefcase with him how an Olympian would wear a gold medal; it is his pride and his belief in white society’s faith in him as an individual. However, all his dreams are retained in vain; it is a false sense of hope that…show more content…
When onlookers ask to see the contents of his briefcase, IM replies, “‘Come on down...I’ve had you in my brief case all the time and you didn’t know me then and can’t see me now” (566). IM has come to realize that all he carried were symbols of racism and disillusioned dreams. By the time IM burns the items in his briefcase, what once was a symbol of hope, became something more. It became the turmoil IM faced in all his years on his own. The light of the fire he burns acting as a purity to reincarnate IM. He is able to break apart the darkness; he leaves behind his inability to see and begins living in the light of his own decisions: “And my problem was that I always tried to go everyone’s way but my own” (573). IM has finally realized that his fault was senselessly following other’s ideas, leading to exactly to where he is now. In the act of burning his belongings, IM is taking a meaningful step away from his past. He is separating himself from all the prejudices and stereotypes he had subjected himself
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