Symbolism in "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison

Essay by ducillemHigh School, 12th gradeA+, March 2002

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Progress Report #2

?Invisible Man? by Ralph Ellison is scattered with symbolism. Especially the first scene, which is widely known as the ?Battle Royal.? This is an important section in the novel, for the reader is introduced to the Invisible Man as someone who is not listened to by most, interrupted by many and instructed to know his place at all times.

From the very beginning of the novel the narrator values his education. His education first brings him a calfskin briefcase, when the superintendent rewards him for his success, saying, "Take this prize and keep it well. Consider it a badge of office. Prize it. Keep developing as you are and some day it will be filled with important papers that will help shape the destiny of your people." (Ellison; pg. 32) The Invisible Man treasures the briefcase that included a scholarship to the state Negro college so much but it represents the life that the white authority figures have planned out for the Invisible Man.

It was covered in white tissue paper, symbolizing the white control over his planned life.

The last few paragraphs of this chapter are embedded with symbolism and foreshadowing. For example when he arrives home after the ?Battle Royal? the Invisible Man believes that he has actually accomplished something by accepting the scholarship. ?When I reached home everyone was excited. Next day the neighbors came to congratulate me. I even felt safe from grandfather, whose deathbed curse usually spoiled my triumphs. I stood beneath his photograph with my brief case in hand and smiled triumphantly into his stolid black peasant?s face. It was a face that fascinated me. The eyes seemed to follow everywhere I went.? (Ellison; pgs. 32-33) The eyes in his picture represent the Invisible Man?s constant feeling that his...