The Theme Of Invisibility In Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison

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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a novel that focuses on some of the social and psychological problems facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century and touches on Black Nationalism, racism, the conflict of identity, and the focus of this essay, the feeling of invisibility. Focusing on two episodes from the novel, the following is a discussion of the novel’s engagement with the notion of invisibility and, where applicable, the related ideas of blindness as well as sight. Sight and blindness plays a crucial role in this novel and from the very beginning, the prologue introduces many themes that largely define the rest of the novel. One such a theme is the theme of invisibility, which is the inability of people to see another person, for the reason being that prejudices get in the way of people being able to recognise them as an individual. This is repeated many times in the novel and is made very clear in the prologue by starting off with the narrator describing himself as “an invisible man (Ellison, 1952, p. 3).” The reason for this is not as a result of some biochemical accident or supernatural cause, but “simply because people refuse to see [him]” (Ellison, 1952, p. 3). Because he is black, the whites do not see him as a real person therefore he feels invisible and describes them as being blind for not being able to see past his physical appearance. Adding on to this feeling of invisibility, is the fact that the narrator does not even provide his name, he simply
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