16 November 2005
The Themes and Styles of Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison has proven himself through his novel The Invisible Man to be the leading black author of the twentieth century. Although he had written many short stories and essays collected in the book Shadow and Act, The Invisible Man is his only novel. With this one novel, Ellison earned himself the 1953 National Book Award and acclaim by the African American community for so accurately portraying the struggles a black American had to face in the 1930s. The writing style of Ellison is not typical of the writing style of other black authors of his time period like Baldwin or Wright. His Americanized writing style can be better compared to Melville, West and Faulkner. The Invisible Man contains excellently placed underlying themes and symbolism to accurately describe the narrator's struggles to find himself in both American society and black society.
Ellison loves the American language. Following the progress of the American language, Ellison admires Twain's southern speech, the Mississippi dialect of Faulkner and Jones' vernacular locations. He is sensitive to black speech especially by calling it "our own version of English." American language shows directness, flexibility and imagery to the Negro presence (Tuttleton 296). Overall, Ellison's perspective shown in his works is very personal. He concerns himself with more personal matters than social. He has tried hard to protect and prove his distinctness, his difference from various predefined ideas of his identity. He refuses to be defined by race in his works. He states his race proudly but will not allow assumptions to become his identity. Ellison proves he is not like "them" but a unique individual who has escaped "their' limitations (Gibson 315).
Everything an author could want from a novel can be found in The Invisible Man. Humor, suspense, black and American history (where Ellison's imagination brings forth truth from the...