Allusions in Invisible Man
Invisible Man, written with ingenuity by Ralph Waldo Ellison, is a masterpiece by itself, but it also intertwines into every page one or more allusions to previously written masterpieces. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, and whether it was Ellison who incorporated the works into his own or others who incorporated his work into their own, it makes for a brilliant piece of literature. Ellison defines the character of the Invisible Man through literary, Biblical, and historical allusions.
In the "Prologue," the narrator writes, "Call me Jack-the-Bear, for I am in hibernation" (6). . Although vague, this reference to Jack indicates all the Jacks in the fairy tales (Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, etc.) Jack, the common protagonist, allows the reader to know that Invisible Man is the protagonist right away. The comment that he is in hibernation refers to his constant battle between being the protagonist or the antagonist; whether to act according to his feelings and instincts, or to try to follow the mysterious words of his deceased grandfather. Also, Brother Jack can be seen as a protagonist throughout the book as well. Even earlier in the chapter, a reference to Edgar Allan Poe is made; "I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe..." This allusion, clear and concise, refers to the "spooks" who haunted Edgar Allan Poe and right away defines the narrator's invisibility. He is not a ghost or spirit, but is invisible through his character, actions, and feelings about himself.
In addition to these allusions, Dante's Inferno is referred to in the Prologue as well. Invisible Man relates the action of going to his home in the basement of the apartment building to descending into Hell. He comments that his "hole is warm and full of light... I doubt that there is a brighter spot in all of New York than this hole of mine.." (6.) This "hole" that the narrator refers to is the...
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