• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man brilliantly brings together the themes of identity and responsibility through a minor, nevertheless essential character. The Grandfather's advice is echoed throughout the novel

Extracts from this document...


Feliks Leybovich 4-207 Essay on the Invisible Man Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man brilliantly brings together the themes of identity and responsibility through a minor, nevertheless essential character. The Grandfather's advice is echoed throughout the novel as an answer to the main question posed by the author, stating that society is invisible to the plight of the black man, and that he can only convince it to change through appeasing it. The narrator's sense of identity is continually flooded by messages from the world around him that tell him he is invisible and has no truth from which to act responsibly. He begins his narration with a memory of his grandfather, who had always seemed to him to be the obedient black servant satisfied with his inferior social status. Although on his death-bed, the grandfather crushed the image the narrator held; he told him of his hatred for white people and his plan to destroy them by pretending to agree with them. The problem of doing this stems from the fact that a person cannot act in a conforming manner without a clear idea of his or her social identity. This uncertainty about the Narrator's identity is embodied by many events and symbols that appear throughout the novel. ...read more.


This is another instance where the narrator should have realized the duality of the white man and his motives. Later when the narrator starts his training in the Liberty Paint Factory it is worthwhile to note how the paint the narrator mixes becomes whiter when drops of black are added to it. The symbolic suggestion in the context of the novel is that a necessary element of blackness in society serves only to enhance the overwhelming whiteness in it. All this symbolism is perfectly placed within the novel to show the importance of the black man's blindness to his treatment by the society he lives in. If the narrator could remember his own identity and value himself, he would not overvalue white men. This exemplifies the advice with which the Grandfather gave our narrator at the beginning of the novel: to understand that he is above the white men because he is invisible to them. And with this knowledge our narrator is supposed to take advantage of the white men, "overcome them with yeses." Although this is so, the narrator's exaggerated sense of the white man's worth is what gives the white man power over him. The narrator gradually comes to realize that he must find a way to identify fully with all social groups, especially his own group of blacks, if he is to act responsibly. ...read more.


The falling action centers on his coming to grips with a philosophy of the diversity of life, which is not all black or all white, all good or all bad. The epilogue then serves as the final conclusion to the plot, revealing why the narrator has written the book and explaining that he is ready to emerge from the underground and live life as a changed and more hopeful man. Throughout the novel, as the narrator becomes more and more disillusioned by his experiences and loses his blindfolds are ripped away; by the end of the novel, the narrator can see clearly. The words of his Grandfather are finally accepted to be false in the sense that the way to deal with whites and society is to overcome them with understanding them, and thereby understanding your place in society. Not by conforming to what society says you should be, but rather look into your invisibility so that you can find yourself and your place in society. As a result of this realization that our narrator had he wrote the novel with the purpose of sharing his experiences and lessons with others, hoping they will identify with and benefit from what he has learned. The narrator concludes his story with a telling sentence: "maybe on some lower frequency I speak for you" ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. The Corporate Social Responsibility Debate

    The justification is in doing so, businesses create employment, generate returns on shares and investment. This increases the affluence of the economy as a whole, subsequently benefiting the welfare of society. This argument suggests social responsibility is not a sensible business strategy, as it causes the profit-maximisation goal to be financially compromised [Kerr, 2004].

  2. Does Boxing have a future?

    Although the sport wasn't added to the ancient Olympic programme until 688BC (Brooke-Ball 2000), some sort of boxing had become pretty well established among the Greeks before that time. An early form of Greek boxing would see two adversaries sat on stones facing and then pounding away at one another until one was knocked out.

  1. Invisible Man: A Universally Applicable Tale of One Man's Journey of Self-Discovery.

    Perhaps that's the way it had to be" (572). The narrator has now found his identity; although the thing he discovers is that he lacks an identity and is instead the absence of individualism, the absence of anything seen. He is invisible in multiple ways, not only physically invisible.

  2. 'The Simple Bard, unbroke by rules or Art'. (Burns epigraph to the Kilmarnockedition). How ...

    bardic persona is raised beyond the social man, raised up onto the 'Lee Rigg'. Burns says in the 'Second Epistle to J. Lapraik': Were this the charter of our state, 'On pain o' hell be rich an' great,' Damnation then would be our fate, Beyond remead; (p.

  1. Freedom Is Within You - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston ...

    The point is to stand up for oneself, and not a group. Discrimination lies within judgment and generalization, if people follow groups, they are only putting themselves in a category to be generalized. If everyone fully understand themselves, then it is impossible to generalize them.

  2. In this paper I will try to analyze the complex character of Fenstad's Mother ...

    "A man with ideas. People like that have gone out of my life." (p. 117). Her needs are very basic and minimal. This is why the box of Chocolate on her T.V. catches Fenstad's eyes immediately. A luxury like Chocolate (passion / love)

  1. Environmental Lessons From History.

    to the Shetland and St Kilda breeds and perhaps especially goats - 100,000 goat skins were sold to London in 1698 were to blame. Smout (1997). The damage these animals do is well documented with both small sheep and goats being selective grazers of young trees.

  2. classifications and social identity What have you learnt thus far about your identity and/or ...

    Did this therefore mean I have been socially produced to obide and accept norms and values that the society I have been born into has created for me? Classifications are used in everyday situations. An example of this is the road systems in England.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work