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Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Essay

1526 words - 7 pages


“I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer.';

-The Invisible Man

Be True to Thyself
Many people travel through life on a constant search on who there are and how they fit into this world. Some maneuver through situations and issues that they are faced with never being true to themselves, but more so modeling the behaviors of others. It is not until one defines their self-image, obtain a healthy amount of self-esteem, and confidence can they execute decisions concerning their lives. Until then, their actions are merely mimics or derivatives of the thoughts or beliefs of another. In Ralph Ellison’s novel ...view middle of the document...

Dr. Bledsoe expels the invisible man from school, hoping that he will learn how to survive and develop an identity that suits him. After being expelled from school, the invisible man begins a journey to make a living for himself. He ends up in New York where he is introduced to “The Brotherhood';. “The Brotherhood'; quickly gives him a place to live, a job with a reasonable salary, and petty cash to spend on clothing. He adopts their ideologies, mimics their way of life, and indulges himself in their literature. After going through a rigorous tutorial program the invisible man emerges brainwashed and still lacking an identity. Never making his own decisions, the invisible man becomes “chief spokesman of the Harlem District';(Ellison 359) and finally begins to promote the ideas of “The Brotherhood'; to the people of Harlem. Not knowing that “The Brotherhood'; is using him to entice the people into following their doctrine and adopting their philosophies. He never decided where he would go or what cause he would speak against. He became a pawn for “The Brotherhood';. To them he was not an individual, but an inanimate object. Eventually the invisible man grows tired of “The Brotherhood'; and their mannerisms. However, instead of trying to work on developing an identity, the invisible man begins to impersonate “Rine the runner and Rine the gambler and Rine the briber and Rine the lover and Rinehart the Reverend';(Ellison 498). Wearing a large hat and glasses tinted a dark green, he moves about the street with greetings of “Hey now!';(Ellison 485) and “daddy-o';(Ellison 484). He immerses himself into a youthful lifestyle with no prior knowledge of how it operates. His resemblance to Rinehart is advantageous because it allows him to travel safely from place to place while in hiding from ““The Brotherhood';';. The invisible man moves through his life never really living for himself but for others. In addition, to adopting the behaviors expected of him, he also adopts the personalities of others. Both of these practices strengthen the idea that he is invisible “simply because people refuse to see'; (Ellison 3) him because there really is not a concrete personality to see.
Though the invisible man lives a life of emulation for some time, he eventually retreats from others to discover his identity. The invisible man’s first step to living a personally fulfilling life was realizing that his “future lies chiefly in [his] own hands';(Vanzant 1/15). Consequently, if he does not know what to identify himself with he will not control his future. To have an established identity one’s self-image, self-esteem and confidence must be assessed and developed. Secondly he learns that “identification with an organization or a cause is no substitute for self-realization'; (Vanzant4/29). He realizes that...

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