Blindness In Invisible Man Essay

1925 words - 8 pages

Many people wonder what it would be like if they were to be invisible; stealthily walking around, eavesdropping on conversations, and living as if nothing is of their concern. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, is centred on an unnamed fictional character who believes himself to be, indeed, invisible to the rest of the world. He is not invisible in the physical sense, but socially and intellectually. As the book develops, readers are able to experience an authentic recollection of what life is as a black man living in a white man’s world. This man wants to achieve so much, but is severely limited by the colour of his skin. This novel, which has become a classic, addresses the themes of blindness in fighting stereotypes and predestined roles, lack of economic and social powers, and dealing with bondages.
Firstly, the main character, the invisible man has to compete against what others in his society want him to be, versus what he truly wants to become. At the beginning of the book, he recalls the fact that his grandfather, on his deathbed, had impressed upon him that rather than standing up for the African Americans community, as he himself did, his grandson should follow the leadership of white Americans in order to remain safe. His grandparents, freed slaves following the Civil War, once believed they were still equal to white Americans, despite segregation. As the years go on, and nothing seems to change, the grandfather starts to lose hope. He then admits that living as an African American was comparable to warfare and the only way to conquer the enemy was to undermine them with “yeses” and “grins”. Even the ones who have endured the most to see the freedom of their race, have given up hope, not leaving much for the next generation to strive for.
Another role that black Americans could adopt is to assimilate to white society. This becomes one of the major struggles in the novel as the invisible man is eventually expelled from the school and sent up north on a hopeless task by Mr. Bledsoe, the college president, to become employed and presumably come back south to school - neither of which happens. In an attempt to display the surrounding area of the campus he mistakenly ends up driving Mr. Norton, a well respected man that has donated significant amounts of money to the college, into an housing area of poor black sharecroppers that had previously been slave quarters. So, Mr. Bledsoe scolds him for the incident and expresses the unexpected views, to the invisible man, to keep things the way they are so that he, Mr. Bledsoe, will remain in his powerful position. Generally, people of a certain group would encourage growth of power in society of their group. Instead of doing that however, Mr. Bledsoe says, “I’s big and black and I say ‘Yes, suh’ as loudly as any burrhead when it’s convenient, but I’m still the king down here. . . . The only ones I even pretend to please are big white folk, and even those I control more than they control me. . . ....

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