In American society of the early 1900s, many Blacks were still being mistreated by Whites under the separate but equal doctrine. They wanted to have the same opportunities, but the underlying racism rooted in the American culture often prevented any possibility of advancement in jobs or success in careers. The abundance of civil rights groups during this time depicts the inner conflict between the law and morality as well as constant changes in goals and identity. In Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, the protagonist exemplifies inner conflict and constant fluctuation in future goals, morality, and personal opinions similar to Zbigniew’s character Mr. Cogito in his poems “On Mr. Cogito’s Two Legs” and “Mr. Cogito and the Pearl.”
In “On Mr. Cogito’s Two Legs,” Zbigniew shows Mr. Cogito’s conflicting personalities by comparing his two legs to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The allusion to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza also serves as an antithesis between extreme optimism and cautious pragmatism. The protagonist in Ellison’s novel displays “an ignoble memento of flight” similar to the quixotic right leg of Mr. Cogito (Zbigniew, 14). During the battle royal, the protagonist can only think about the speech that he has prepared to give following the event. He envisions that it will impress and change the views of all the white men listening. This alone is highly idealistic since they are in the south during a time period when racism and separate but equal principles are prevalent. However, while delivering his speech, he accidentally says “social…equality” instead of social responsibility (Ellison, 31). He quickly insists that it was a mistake; like Quixote, his idealism makes him go into fight, but then turn away at the first sign of danger. In addition, at the end of the novel, Ras the Exhorter verbally attacks the protagonist and the Brotherhood for not taking action to avenge Clifton’s death. The protagonist tries to protect the Brotherhood’s reputation, but Ras’s...
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