CHAPTER III: The Impact of Identity on Dreams –
1. Identity in the Sight of Other People
In actual fact, people have a certain view or conception about what somebody is. This view is quite different from what the individual himself has. But then the harm in all this is that this state of affairs has a great impact on what an individual is supposed to become in life especially when he doesn’t have a great sense of objectivity or when he is not determined to achieve his life goal regardless of the opposition or the influence exerted upon them by society. . . Often times, this conception of somebody makes him loose his self-confidence and try to comply with what others want him to be or think he is. In trying to reajust his nature in order to harmonize his life with other people’s view, he twists his own identity and becomes somebody else than who he is in actual fact. This is what we notice through the character of George Murchison who despite his belonging to a certain race, tried to behave like a member of another race because he didn’t have a great sense of Africanness Sometimes, because of the conception they have of other people, they would try to compel them to behave in a certain way. The white society always try then to determine the kind of life Black people are supposed to lead. This can be seen through the novel Invisible Man where the protagonist struggles hard to break from the mold crafted and held together by white society throughout the novel. The stereotypes and expectations of a racist society compel blacks to behave only in certains ways, never allowing them to act according to their own will. Even the actions of black activits seeking equality are manipulated as if they were marionettes on strings. Throughout the novel the invisible man, the protagonist encounters this situation and although he strives to achieve his own identity in society, his determination is that it is impossible.
When he returns to Harlem, Tod Clifton has disappeared. When the narrator finds him, he realizes that Clifton has become disillusioned with the Brotherhood, through manipulation and has quit. Clifton is selling dancing Sambo dolls on the street, mocking the organization he once believed in. He is shot to death by a police officer in a scuffle. At Clifton's funeral, the narrator rallies crowds to win back his former widespread Harlem support and delivers a rousing speech, but he is censured by the Brotherhood for praising a man who would sell such dolls.
Walking along the street one day, the narrator is spotted by Ras and roughed up by his men. He buys sunglasses and a hat as a disguise, and is mistaken for a man named Rinehart in a number of different scenarios: first, as a lover, then, a hipster, a gambler, a briber, and, finally, as a reverend. He sees that Rinehart has adapted to white society, at the cost of his own identity. This causes the narrator to see that his own identity is not of importance to the Brotherhood, but only his blackness. He decides to take his grandfather's dying advice to "over come 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction. . ." and "yes" the Brotherhood to death, by making it appear that the Harlem membership is thriving when in reality it is crumbling. Juste like Ras puts on his sunglasses and hat and is mistaken for somebody else, in the same perspective, people mistake Beneatha for somebody she is not especially because of her hair, her nigerian clothes gifted onto her by Asagai. As they consider her to be who she is not, they will expect or even compel her to behave as the one they mistake her for
2. One’s Own Conception on Identity
The poem “Harlem” captures the tension between the need for black expression and the impossibility of that expression because of American society’s oppression of its black population. In the poem, Hughes asks whether a “dream deferred” withers up “like a raisin in the sun.” His lines confront the racist,...
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