Puppets: a Journey for Selfhood in a Cruel and Manipulated Society

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Puppets: A journey for selfhood in a cruel and manipulated society.
There are some works of literature today that display a good reflection of ideals in society. Literature often provides us an in- depth story where a protagonist is faced with many hardships and deal with them throughout their life- long journey. In the book Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the main character and protagonist, struggles in search for self-identity. The protagonist is the narrator and remains unnamed throughout the novel; he is referred to as the Invisible Man. The book is set in a society that deals with discrimination and obliges to the laws made by people in power. In this cruel and Machiavellian dynamic based society, a journey towards responsibility for one’s self, selfhood, enlightenment and success is the protagonist's life- long goal.

In society, individuals who follow rules and aspire to proper conduct believe this to be an individual's responsibility, for it makes them good citizens. Ellison portrays in the Invisible Man that responsibility is simply being accountable for ones own actions. In Creative Revolt: A Study of Wright, Ellison, and Dostoevsky, author Michael F. Lynch notes that "Ellison uses the word 'responsibility' quite frequently in Invisible Man, stressing it as the corollary of equality and freedom" (171). In the United States, the demand for equality based on race has been a long and on going struggle. When there is a division between equality based on race, it tends to make society more selective in terms of trust and social treatment, which, in turn debates the idea of social responsibility. How one becomes responsible for the mistreatment of another. The Invisible Man knows of this race based equality struggle first hand amongst a society who refuses to value his individuality as he says “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” (Ellison 3).

In the beginning of the novel, the Invisible Man is at the end of his High school graduation ceremony and he longs to give a speech. However, before he can do that, he was invited to a gathering of the town's leading white citizens with his fellow graduates. He is placed in a ring blindfolded and is brutally pitted against his peers for entertainment. Ellison describes this scene to his readers as he says “when I got there I discovered that it was on the occasion of a smoker, and I was told that since I was to be there anyway I might as well take part in the battle royal, to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part of the entertainment” (Ellison 17). This scene indicates discrimination in the life of the Invisible Man and secondly that there is a certain, select group of individuals who, are in control, “the town's leading white citizens” (Ellison 17). This is the first time when the Invisible Man gives a speech in the novel. The speech is preceded by the battle royal. In the novel the Invisible Man uses the phrase “social responsibility” (Ellison 30). The audience began to laugh at him. The audience, being the town’s leading white citizens makes a mockery of the Invisible Man's emotional standpoint. The audience directs their attention to him when he changes his phrase from social responsibility to “social... equality--” (Ellison 31). The rowdy crowd becomes silent and questions him scrutinizing about what he had said. He become overpowered by their questioning and humbly retreats to silence overpower the Invisible Man. It is a significant moment in the novel because it shows how the Invisible Man represses his emotions and ideals to conform to the unjustly pressure of authority. It is true in history that many African Americans struggled with issues of discrimination. So to say that one who follows the laws of society also implies that the person is morally responsible to following The Constitution. The Constitution states, “All men are created equal.” So for a society that discriminates against a certain people, ignore their...
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