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Sight & Blindness in the Invisible Man

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Sight & Blindness in the Invisible Man Throughout the novel, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison works with many different images of blindness and impaired vision and how it relates to sight. These images prove to be fascinating pieces of symbolism that enhance the themes of perception and vision within the novel. From the beginning of the novel where the Invisible Man is blindfolded to the end where he is walking down the streets of Harlem in dark glasses, images of sight and blindness add to the meaning of many scenes and characters. In many of these situations the characters inability to see outwardly parallels their inability to understand inwardly what is going on in the world around them. Characters like Homer A. Barbee and Brother Jack believe they are all knowing but prove to be blind when it comes to the world they are in. By looking at the characters with impaired vision one can better understand their struggles with understanding the world around them that they, however, are not yet aware of. ...read more.


The idea of blacks being figuratively "blindfolded" by whites symbolizes the helpless of people like the Invisible Man when around manipulative white men. The actual blindfolding reduces the black boys to flailing beasts and the fighting is pure chaos. This degrading act of being forced to stare at a naked woman followed by being blindfolded and forced to fight proves to be one of the most compelling examples of how powerful vision and blindness are when controlled by someone else. At college the Invisible Man once more contemplates the power of sight when he passes by a statue of the Founder with a veil over his "empty eyes" (36), eyes which can no longer look out onto the world. Nevertheless, the Founder is presented as a man of "God-inspired faith" (120) whom the students should try to emulate. However, the Invisible Man questions, "whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place" (36). ...read more.


Barbee also praises Bledsoe, who is ruthless and manipulative and self-serving. Bledsoe is only looking out for the best interests of himself and therefore he is a terrible role model and leader for some one like the Invisible Man. Bledsoe is only holding him back, limiting his potential. Barbee's blindness prevents him from seeing Bledsoe for who he truly is. Barbee's blindness is representative of his inability to be an accurate judge of character. Later in the novel, during his first speech for the Brotherhood, the Invisible Man talks about how blind he, as well as the audience, is. In a speech to members of the Harlem community about being dispossessed the Invisible Man accuses "them" (an unknown other) of, "dispossess[ing] us each of one eye from the day we are born" (343). He fears that they have lost their peripheral and the others will be free to attack from the sides. He considers himself and the Harlem community "a nation of one-eyed mice" (343). The Invisible Man is using this metaphor to try to pull the community's eyes together so that they won't be as vulnerable to "them." ...read more.

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