The Invisible Man

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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The novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison was about a black man who considered himself to be invisible because people refused to see his real self. Though he was intelligent, IM was very naïve during his college years and young adult life. He allowed people to use and manipulate him and fails to realize what is happening to him every time. Throughout the novel, Ellison uses scenes of social occasions to reveal the values of the character and the society in which he lives. One of the first social occasions that comes to mind is the battle royal.

Despite his grandfather's warnings, the narrator believes that genuine obedience will win him respect and praise. To some extent he is right, as the white men reward his obedience with a scholarship but they take advantage of him by forcing him to take part in the humiliating battle royal. The battle royal episode extends the novel's motifs of blindness and masks.

The white men view the boys not as human beings but as type of low creature; the boys blindly strike out at each other like coarse animals in the boxing ring. The blindfolds also represent their inability to see through the false masks of goodwill that barely conceal the men's racist motives. The narrator, blind in so many ways, has not yet learned to see behind the masks, and veils put up by white society. Only too late does he discover how fake the gold coins and the white men's generosity was.

The presentation of the narrator's speech shows us the way IM's society lived. The white men's reaction to the narrator's slip in substituting "social equality" for "social responsibility" is a prime example. Whereas the men act with some good nature toward the narrator when he expresses the model black...