Charterization Paragarph Invisible Man

Essay by Sharukh123College, UndergraduateA+, December 2002

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Through the characterization of the protagonist during his college life, Ralph Ellison demonstrates how Negroes have trouble achieving their own identities in a white-dominated society, and often have an identity imposed on them by other people. The protagonist, the unnamed narrator of the story, wins a scholarship to a Negro college because of his speechmaking. The fact that the narrator isn't given a name emphasizes the notion that he is struggling to find an identity or personality in a white racist society (Invisible Man, 162). The narrator initially wants to succeed in life and is therefore inclined to be nice to white folks, along with the black leaders of his college (who have achieved success in white culture). He believes in "the great false wisdom...that white is right" and that it is "advantageous to flatter rich white folks" ( ,38). Therefore, he gravitates toward the leaders of his college even expressing a desire to become the President's assistant.

The narrator, however, is later expelled from the college for showing a rich white trustee "parts of the South that the college wishes to hide from its Northern visitors" (Invisible Man, 155). After this event the narrator realizes that not only the rich white trustees but even the black college leaders betrayed him and that they only wanted to control him, to "keep that Nigger-boy running" ( ). Schafer remarks on how the narrator "is confronted by the deceit and duplicity of Negroes who have capitulated to a white world" and how he finds out that "both black and white can be turned against him" (170). A vet at the Golden Day, a local bar, explains to the narrator how the white trustees are trying to control him and repress his emotions: "Already he [the narrator] is well,