Symbolic Exposing of Realities
Norman Douglas said, “How reluctantly the mind consents to reality!” Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man features a young man dealing with life in pre-Civil Rights movement America as a black man. He comes to realize that he must face the realities of his place in society, as being defined by people through general stereotypes rather than an individual, or invisible. Ralph Ellison brilliantly shows this man struggle with life, leading him from the South to Harlem where he eventually tries to bring social change with his oratory skills and help from a group known as the Brotherhood. He fights to maintain his faith in his illusions that many things in his life are what they seem, but he must come to reality. Symbols help to develop the contradictions of the world that the narrator lives in and how it is not as it seems. The American Flag tattoo on the stripper before the Battle Royale displays the illusion of life in America that the narrator fools himself into believing can happen, as the narrator perceives the Sambo dolls as self-controlling when all along their actions come from someone else, and as Brother Jack’s glass eye shows the falsehood and erroneous ideology that seemed to want to bring good change to people.
Most people do not think of strippers as adding any symbolic elements, but this stripper in Invisible Man has an American flag tattoo that further brings out the book’s illusion versus reality theme. The narrator participates in a Battle Royale to entertain white folk before he gives his speech from his high school graduation. Before the Battle Royale takes place, the men in the audience want to embarrass the black guys hired for the fight and the narrator. They bring out the “magnificent blonde” stripper that makes some of the boys stand “with lowered heads” and tremble, making the narrator feel “irrational guilt and fear” (Ellison 19). Yet, he feels strongly attracted still. The narrator eventually notices the small...
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