One obvious theme that I picked up when I read Invisible Man was the theme of invisibility. I think the theme of invisibility has different meanings to it. One meaning is that invisibility suggests the unwillingness of others to see the individual as a person. The narrator is invisible because people see in him only what they want to see, not what he really is. Invisibility, in this meaning, has a strong sense of racial prejudice. White people often do not see black people as individual human beings. Another meaning of the theme of invisibility is the idea that it suggests separation from society. While the narrator is in his hole, he is invisible. He cannot be seen by society. He is invisible because he chooses to remain apart. Invisibility, in this meaning, is similar to hibernation, with the narrator’s choice to remain in his cave and think. This meaning of the theme doesn’t relate to me, but in a way, relates to the poet, Emily Dickinson, who wrote, “The Wind Tapped Like a Tired Man.” Dickinson withdrew from the world in her early twenties and became a recluse. It’s like Emily chose to be isolated from the rest of the world, just like the narrator in Invisible Man did. The third meaning is that invisibility indicates lack of self-hood. A person is invisible if he has no self, no identity. If a person doesn’t have a soul, spirit, personality, etc., then they seem like a ghost, a thing who is cold and invisible.
Invisible Man may be read as a story about the narrator’s development. It is a first-person narrative, and because you experience the novel through the narrator, you get to know him better than anyone else. One pattern of development is that of innocence to experience. At first, the narrator is extremely innocent and does not understand what is happening to him. He does not believe people are bad. He does not see that Bledsoe is making a fool of him. As he suffers, he learns. With experience, he begins to see the world more as it really is....
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