Invisible Man: The Narrator’s Journey To Discover His True Self
In the novel, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, there is an ongoing theme of the discovery of oneself. Throughout the novel, the narrator (who is not given a name throughout the book) is always trying to figure out who he really is, and analyzing the many different characters that he plays. He starts out being an exceptional student with a bright future. Then just like that he is sent to New York City where he becomes just another poor black laborer, and then he becomes a well- known political spokesman, and in the end he realizes that he has always been an “Invisible Man.” The fact that the narrator was not aware of his invisibility until the end of the novel shows that during that time he was invisible to himself. Even though it took time, tragedy, and significant losses, the narrator finally realizes that the perception of him has been wrong his whole life. The story starts out with the narrator participating in the "battle royal" which took place at a hotel. The reason he was there in the first place was to deliver a speech on humility, and on the progress of the black people that he had given at his graduation. During this time he is still a hopeful scholar. He says on page 18 “In those pre-invisible days I visualized myself as a potential Booker T. Washington.” He believes that he is seen as an icon of what a black person can achieve. Because of this he is living the life that others have told him that he should live. The abuse in which the narrator is put through in the battle royal is the first sign for him that something may not be as it he believes, but he fails to do anything to change the narrator's perceptions of himself. He could have gone on living the life, in which society has preselected for him, and he never would have realized his invisibility, but a series of events later in the novel started to change his perspective.
A major event that caused the narrators life to start spiraling out of control was the day that he was assigned to show Mr. Norton around. Norton is a powerful white man who founded the school that he was attending. The narrator decided to take Mr. Norton through the old slave quarters. This was a big mistake, as Norton requested to talk to Jim Trueblood. Trueblood was a black man who, had raped and impregnated his own daughter, while having a dream. Mr. Norton got very sick after the conversation he had with Trueblood. In fact the conversation caused him to pass out, which caused the narrator to get very worried that Norton would die. Because of this, the narrator brought him to the Golden Day, which was a local brothel to get some whiskey on Norton’s request. Mr. Norton ended up recovering fully, however, Dr. Bledsoe received news of what had happened and, the narrator was permanently expelled from school. He was told that he would be allowed to return after one year.
The narrator was deeply shaken by this turn of events, but he didn’t give up. He heads to New York in hope that he will be able to return to school after a year. Bledsoe gives the narrator seven letters that were addressed to some prominent white people. The narrator believes that the letters will help him in attaining a job. However, he finds out that it was actually the opposite of what he thought. On page 190 the letter sent to Mr. Emerson reads “The bearer of this letter is a former student of ours, I say former because he shall never again under any circumstances be enrolled as a student here. He has been expelled for a most serious defection from our strictest rules of deportment.” All people have been doing to the point is keeping him chasing after a false hope. This is where the narrator starts to realize that his dreams of being the "next Booker T." are starting to get further away from him, and that he may never return to the life that he used to live. This is where the narrator’s journey to find his true identity begins. Mr....
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