Symbolism In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

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At the turn of the twentieth century, American civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “The problem of the century is the problem of the color line.” Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man examines the “problem” through the recurring use of symbolism. Ellison’s emphasis on the literal and figurative shackles of slavery represent society 's racist ideologies that bind African Americans despite the abolition of slavery. Correspondingly, the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement confirms that even in the twenty-first century, the “color line” problem remains. The narrator recognizes society’s progress but still fights for a better future. Modern civil rights activists seek to do the same. Many African Americans recognized how far they had come since the abolition of slavery. However, with this came a disregard for the prejudices…show more content…
In chapter eighteen, Brother Tarp gifts the narrator chains, calling it a “luck piece” (388). Through these chains, Tarp passes down the fight for freedom and equality to the narrator. The chains embody the struggle of the black race against prejudice and racism and are also a remnant from Tarp’s nineteen years in a chain gang. Although the United States abolished the institution by the time of Brother Tarp’s arrest, chain gangs were extensions of the slave system that the 13th amendment deemed legal. (The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution), Despite breaking free and escaping, Tarp still suffers a limp from being chained for nineteen years. However, this limp is not physical, but psychological. This is representative of how although the physical institution of slavery has been abolished, the impact of it still reverberates through history into the modern day. The systemic oppression of African Americans from the past continues into the present and continues to hinder socioeconomic growth and development of their
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