Invisible Man

Topics: Black people, White people, Race and Ethnicity Pages: 5 (1838 words) Published: May 5, 2013
Amber Riedy
Honors Humanities

March 20, 2013

Invisible Man Essay

The Illusions of Invisibility and Blindness in Invisible Man

When people think of being blind they think of the physical inhibition; where we are unable to see anything around us because of something that is wrong physically with our eyesight. In Invisible Man, the reference of blindness refers to the author being unseen but not because of others physical defaults but rather because they are choosing to not see him because of his race. Along with the blindness comes invisibility. Because the people around the narrator are blind in this sense, he therefore becomes invisible. The metaphors and analogies throughout the book really help to give an idea of these illusions.

In the book, we learn right away that the narrator is invisible but that he has become to accept it. He speaks of an instance where he almost kills a blond man for insulting him but once it hit him that the man is simply a sleep walker and that this is like a dream for him because he cannot truly “see” the narrator because the narrator is like a phantom in the white man’s nightmares. He stops himself when he comprehends the fact that he allows others who don’t even “see” him to make him assume an unknown identity, making his real identity invisible. It is noted that the positive side to his fall to the invisibility, is that he no longer has to pay his very expensive bill to light his hole in the ground. The funny thing is, that at this time in the book, it seems that all the light in the world still wouldn’t stop him from being invisible. Rather, it could be taken as a way that he is trying to be seen but cannot yet figure out how to do so. The narrator then begins his story of how this blindness and invisibility became about, noting that this is the point in his life where he has yet to discover this revolution. In this first chapter, after graduation, he and a few other of his classmates are forced to go to a stag dinner. Here they are literally blindfolded and told to fight. The white blindfold can represent the way these young men are being blinded by society, and more specifically, white society. To further this, they are teased with gold coins at the end of this scene and again told to fight for them, just to find out they are not even actual gold. Again, they are blinded by what society tells them is right. A little later on in the book, when the narrator has finally went to college, there become a few more instances of illusions of invisibility and blindness. First, the narrator is forced to drive Mr. Norton, a donor, around the town. As they are doing so, Mr. Norton tells the boy that he must graduate, but not because he cares for the narrators actual wellbeing, but rather so he can chalk up another tally. In this instance, Mr. Norton is looking through the real person that the narrator is and only seeing him as something on paper, eluding to the invisibility of the narrator. Also, while at the college, Dr. Bledsoe comes about, who is the president of the school. He is a black man who is a huge portrayer of the blindness and invisibility in this book. Dr. Bledsoe does not truly care about the dream not only the Founders of the school clearly have for these black students, but specifically the narrator’s dream to finish college. Dr. Bledsoe has fallen victim to the white society and because he has found a way to be powerful and breakthrough, he goes with what is working. Unfortunately for him, and the narrator, his ways involve basically being a servant to the white society. Rather than being on the same level as the white men around him, he chooses to be powerful by seceding the dream to the whites. Along with Dr. Bledsoe, Reverend Barbee is introduced while at the college. Barbee is physically blind and his sermon basically lays out how Dr. Bledsoe became what he did; that he was once a young man, just like the narrator at the time, and that because of all the hatred...

Cited: Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1995. Print.
"Invisible Man." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
"Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison Book Summary." Invisible Man. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
NOTE: I did not put in-text citations. I did not do this because although I did not directly use one source for a certain area, each source helped me shape my ideas and write the paper like this and I felt they should still be cited.
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