Invisible Man

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Free response Q

12.9.2011

Invisible Man

1977- A character's attempt to recapture or to reject the past is important in many plays, novels, and poems. Choose a literary work in which a character views the past with such feelings as reverence, bitterness, or longing. Show with clear evidence from the work how the character's view of the past is used to develop a theme in the work.

One’s past can be a frightening thing and for some is only a memory to be distanced. For the narrator in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, past serves as a connection to his mistakes, his grandfather, and his racial roots. But when he begins to call New York his home, these are ties he is not certain he wants to keep. At times, he wants to sever and forget all of it as soon as possible. At other times, he longs for the familiarity of his past, whatever it may encompass. Things that might once have piqued his interest now seem nothing but a stereotype. However, one cannot exist in the present without having come from somewhere past and for this reason, his attempts to have less of a past, only further his progress toward invisibility. As an outstanding student at the premier Negro college in the south, the narrator is given the opportunity and the honor of chauffeuring one of the visiting board members around the town for an afternoon. But when he has a badly-timed lapse in judgment and agrees to show Norton the most unsophisticated regions of the town, he is expelled and sent to New York to “work” and gain funds for tuition, but in reality this is the last he will ever see of the college. However, for the narrator, out of sight doesn’t necessarily mean out of mind as he finds himself often comparing his current life to his days at the college and reflecting upon those fateful hours spent with Norton. Though he once bragged about his “college education”, he comes to realize it’s insignificance in his city life. The mistake resulting in...
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