Racism In The Shawshank Redemption

1348 Words6 Pages
Like the cold and menacing walls of prison Morgan Freeman describes in The Shawshank Redemption, the constant theme of institutional racism in Invisible Man confines those within it to defined roles and beliefs. While The Shawshank Redemption illuminates a life of incarceration, to viewers, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man offers a window into the life of a bright but naïve black man desperately trying to climb the social hierarchy, only to be knocked down by exploitative superiors. However, the invisible man isn’t alone in his fight; several characters throughout the novel offer a helping hand. These characters often serve are symbolic of societal groups and reflect the overall statements on race in America of Ellison’s masterpiece. For instance,…show more content…
Before coming to New York, the main character demonstrates his adherence to what was expected of him. After being expelled from his university, he wonders, “How had I come to this? I had kept unswervingly to the path placed before me, had tried to be exactly what I was expected to be, had done exactly what I was expected to do…I knew no other way of living, nor other forms of success available to such as me….Somehow, I convinced myself, I had violated the code” (Ellison 146-147). Despite experiencing setbacks on multiple occasions, the invisible man is unable to question his compliance with the expectations of white society, as he “knew no other way of living”. Moreover, he justifies his treatment by accepting that he had somehow “violated the code” rather than doubting the justice of the actions taken against him. However, this rationale only serves to worsen the main character’s suffering by making him self-critical instead of combatting the problems he faces. Even worse, another instance of Bledsoe’s deceit still doesn’t change his beliefs regarding conformity. When Emerson’s son reveals the contents of Bledsoe’s letter to the invisible man, he ponders, “‘What did I do? I’ve always tried to do the right thing…’” (Ellison 191). In almost identical fashion, the invisible man’s reaction illustrates that he still cannot perceive the injustice…show more content…
Emerson’s failure to shift the invisible man’s worldview reflects his overall statement on racial progress: it must come from within oneself, not absorbed from others. When the invisible man finally realizes that his conformity to norms is worthless, only then is he able to truly combat the racism he experiences, an action he could not take while following the path determined by white elites. The conflict between conformity and rebellion courses through the entire novel, ultimately resulting in the invisible man’s isolation from society in hopes of finding answers. During his hibernation, he reflects, “You go for years knowing something is wrong, then suddenly you discover you’re as transparent as air. At first you tell yourself that it’s all a dirty joke, or that it’s due to the ‘political situation’. But deep down you come to suspect that you’re yourself to blame” (Ellison 575). Through this quote, readers see that the invisible man’s finally understands the cause of his misfortune: by blindly conforming to the expectations of society for so long, he himself is partly to blame. He pushed away help from Emerson because of a misguided faith in the system that oppressed him. He began to depend on the racial walls of society expectations that limited him to make decisions. Ultimately, Emerson’s son demonstrates that for the
Open Document