"I am an invisible man." It is a statement that speaks for everyone but is often disregarded. In his novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison explores both the black people's condition of subservience in America and the importance of self-reliance in finding one's identity. The novel is about an invisible man who searches for his identity in the 1940's but only begins to succeed in finding it. Through symbolism, the author forces the reader to relate the novel to his or her life and examine his or her value in a complex society that ignores its own people. Ellison's use of symbolism functions to comment on the black people's search for a place in a society dominated by whites, explore the theme that people tend to be invisible, and illuminate man's need to break free of his invisibility and find his own identity.
Through the use of paint as a symbol, Ellison displays the domination of the whites' society over that of the blacks'.
The slogan "If It's Optic White, It's the Right White," suggests that the white man is always right. Even in the innocent atmosphere of church, the black people are taught the "limitations of [their] lives" and of the white man's dominance. While the paint slogan is made by a black man, the black people, likewise, are what make the white people right. The Optic White is made to be the "purest white that can be found" only by mixing "dead black" dope inside it. Similarly, the black people strengthen the white society and make it "pure" only to be blotted out by the whites. Because they are told everywhere that white is right, the black people come to believe it and enforce it with all their might, thus making it their reality. As does Optic White,