Invisible Man's Emergence
During the epilogue of Invisible Man, the narrator's invisibility "placed [him] in a hole" (Ellison 572). This leads the reader to ask questions. Why did the narrator descend underground? Will he ever emerge? By examining his reasons for going underground, comparing and contrasting his emergence versus his staying below, why he would want to emerge, and the importance of social responsibility, one will see that Invisible Man will clearly emerge (Parker ).
Before one can determine whether or not the narrator will emerge from his proverbial hole, he must asses Invisible Man's reasons for going underground (Parker ). The literal reason for his initial descent was to escape two white men chasing after him. It is at this point that he says, "I felt myself plunge down, down; a long drop that ended upon a load of coal... and I lay in the black dark upon the black coal no longer running" (Ellison 565).
If the reader then thinks back to the prologue, where Invisible Man introduces his living quarters, he sees some irony. During the prologue Invisible Man says, I doubt if there is a brighter spot in all New York...In my hole in the basement there are exactly 1,369 lights, I've wired the entire ceiling, every inch of it (Ellison 6-7).
This extreme lighting contrasts with the darkness and blackness that is shown in the hole that he falls into. According to one critic, the brightness connotes an optimistic viewpoint that is new to Invisible Man (Parker ).
He believed that "[his invisibility] placed [him] in a hole- or showed [him] the the [he] was in" (Ellison 572). He remained in the cellar to get away from "it all" (Ellison 573), and to contemplate his life and his grandfather's words- to ponder his invisibility (Parker ).
Invisible Man is invisible because he lacks an identity. While in the cellar, he creates torches out of his past to find his way out (O'Meally 1196). By lighting his past on fire, he uses history to light his way out of the cellar. Symbolically stated, he uses his history to guide his future, and thus, his history and past are helping him find his identity (Parker ).
Throughout the book Invisible Man has many different identities, but none of them are his own. This is why he realizes that he can't be like Rinehart; clothes don't make the man. This is also why he burns the objects in his briefcase. Robert Parker says that each item in the briefcase is a symbol of one of his past identities that was given to him by someone else. His diploma represents southern black identity, the slip of paper with his name on it...