The Analysis of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison is one of the most prolific American writers. His literary works investigate various issues that Afro-Americans seem to face.
Besides, in his writings the author explores diverse dilemmas and attitudes towards the dark-skinned people, especially in the United States.
Moreover, Ellison emphasizes the specialties and major complications of the postwar period. Among his creations, Invisible Man is the most outstanding one. It encompasses plentiful issues and notions that have a profound impact on the living conditions of a black community. In addition, the novel is a masterly illustration of Ellison’s unique style and writing manner. Therefore, Invisible Man by Ralph is a vivid reflection of the major dilemmas of the Afro-American society through a prism of the author’s experiences and points of view.
Ralph Ellison is considered to be one of the most prominent authors in the world literature. It seems more vivid through the prism of the American literature. While Invisible Man remains the foremost creation of the writer, his other texts garnered a critical acclaim and even won several awards. According to Harold Bloom, Ellison has written a vast number of diverse fictional works, critical essaysm and even epistolary writings. He has found fame with the novels such as Flying Home and Other Stories, Juneteenth, and some others (25-26). He has been also awarded the National Book Award for his most well-known Invisible Man. The overall style and principal of the author are marked by referring to the Afro-American community of the postwar period and analyzing the major struggles that were challenging the society of those days. His works tend to explore the most blatant and acute aspects of those people’s lives. Besides, Ellison’s fiction is autobiographical to some degree as he experienced the analogous difficulties and dilemmas during his lifetime. In fact, the author applies multiple recollections from his past through the prism of the protagonist’s struggles. Thus, Raplh Ellison is one of the most considerable writers of the postwar American literature.
The entire novel Invisible Man is a bildungsroman (Callahan 13), i.e. a novel of upbringing, or a writing of formation (Neimneh et al. 62). It might be also defined as a story of a personal growth or a social commentary. It investigates the recent problems of the local Afro-American communities (Neimneh et al. 62). The novel encompasses different cultural movements, such as realistic tendencies, existentialist theories, or some peculiar surrealistic notions. With reference to Neimneh, the entire style of it is rather similar to jazz or blues music genres (62).
Written in 1952, the literary work depicts the most notable problems of the black people in the United States. Racial and gender inequality, oppressions, and negative attitudes of the society towards Afro-Americans result in creating Ellison’s commentary and criticism about the ongoing trends and tendencies. In addition, the author addresses some peculiar principles and conceptions of Booker T. Washington, who was one of the theoreticians and advocates of the local population. Thus, Invisible Man is a significant contribution to understanding the most critical questions about the living conditions of the local inhabitants.
Invisible Man is an illustration of the recounts of a man that decided to start living underground. From the very beginning of the story, the protagonist states, “I am an invisible man” (Ellison 3). However, the invisibility consists not in some physiological pathologies, but in being unseen by the society. Additionally, the narrator states that he is rather a refugee from the upper world. The people are so concerned with their current issues and needs that they do not notice others. The main character recollects his former experiences, especially during the study at the university (Sheokand para. 6). At that time he faced numerous offenses because of his skin tone. Being black meant being a troublemaker. The narrator suffered from multiple insults outspoken by whites. This tendency resulted in cooping himself away from the derisory society. At the same time, the iniquitous attitude towards Afro-Americans leads to menacing results. Initially, the narrator encounters plentiful difficulties in communicating with others. He is frequently forced to participate in fights and conflicts. He needs to protect himself from serious threats that persecute him. Furthermore, after having taken part in one of the frays, the protagonist is expelled from a higher educational establishment. He is compelled to flit to another city. After a series of accidents the Invisible Man loses his ability to speak. Besides, he is hectored not to forget about his past. Moreover, the protagonist faces the difficulties of struggling with a criminal group, a betrayal of the acquaintances, and mockery. Consequently, to avoid multiple cruelties and obtain peace, the Invisible Man decides to live apart from the upper society. However, in the end of the novel, the situation changes as he claims that, “I’ve overstayed my hibernation, since there’s a possibility that even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play” (Ellison 566). Thus, the Invisible Man undergoes innumerable calamities that profoundly influence his entire life.
In his book, Ralph Ellison explores various aspects and problems of the contemporary Afro-American society. Firstly, racism is a leitmotif of the entire story. The relationships among black people, various attitudes towards them, and the loss of identity because of one’s appearance become the most crucial points (Callahan 7). Besides, the narrator regards himself in the light of different expectations and opinions about him. As a result, he transforms into a victim without rights and feelings. The main character faces the jeers of white people, suffers from a permanent sneering, and is treated as an untermensch (Callahan 7). The primary reason of these miseries is only the skin tone. In fact, the character experiences prejudices and stereotypes about his personality or individuality. Apparently, Ellison keenly criticizes the preconceived opinions and concerns of the one’s complexion. He reflects his personal position through the perspective of his protagonist, i.e. the Invisible Man. In addition, plentiful changes should occur in order to level the most widespread preconceptions and prejudgments, especially among those who make the situation even worse. Thus, a racial dilemma is a predominating element in Ralph Ellison’s literary work.
Apart from the racial questions, the supposed blindness and invisibility play a significant role in the apprehension of the novel. The Invisible Man claims to be blind. However, being blind does not consist in some defections in one’s physiology. However, it tends to be the blindness, evolved by the overall society. “I am invisible because people refuse to see me,” claims the narrator (Ellison 3). Indeed, the surrounding human beings are rather indifferent and unwilling to confront a black man as they try to avoid some possible troubles. Additionally, the society is blinded not only by the skin tone, but also because they consider themselves superior. At the same time, Afro-Americans are treated as unworthy to be paid attention to. An inability of people to observe obvious things and a desire to see what they would like to see are the characteristic features of the blindness and the impossibility to accept the whole world.
The entire novel is full of allusions and implications that make the illustrations even more striking and magnificent (Neimneh 64). For instance, the intertextual reproductions from jazz (Callahan 6) and blues, some reflections of black folklore, and different black rituals create a unique atmosphere and an innovative way of depicting the world through the text (Sheokand para. 12). The blues, for instance, “is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive” (Benjamin 125). Ellison saw in blues the philosophy of life.
Apparently, the cultural and social issues have had a certain impact on him. In the post-war America, jazz and blues were the most widespread music genres, yet the majority of players were Afro-Americans. Jazz and blues with their characteristic melodic representations were masterly applied to the text. Thus, the overall tone and even sounding of the text are rather melodic and typical for these particular music genres. Besides, numerous episodes resemble different cinematographic or musical works being popular at that time. Thus, different techniques contribute to a better understanding of the background and settings of the particular novel.
Invisible Man is a profound contribution to the apprehension of the Afro-American culture and its peculiarities. Besides, the author masterly describes the most significant issues that influence the reader’s impressions and further thinking. For instance, Ellison refers to depicting the folklore of black people, their rituals, and principal beliefs. On the other hand, the author acutely criticizes the attitudes towards dark-skinned people as being black immediately presupposes troubles. In a process of exploring the most considerable aspects the writer focuses on representing the most widespread problems being typical for the local population. Blindness in terms of a social phenomenon and invisibility turn out to be the predominating questions that have a tremendous impact on the overall novel. As this literary work is defined as a social commentary, Ellison advises the community to dramatically change the current situation. People need to reconsider the interconnections and communication among them. Therefore, Invisible Man is an outstanding example of describing the most significant problems through the exploration of the Afro-American community of the postwar period.