Concept of Racism in The Invisible Man

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In the Invisible Man, the importance of racial differences are addressed by the anonymous protagonist who shares about his past. Author Ralph Ellison expresses the idea of inequality by portraying the main character as an African American from the south who receives unfair treatment growing up and is “invisible” to the American Society. As the protagonist encounters different characters throughout the novel, Ellison incorporates ideas of social inequality into their roles. Thus … The invisible man’s identity is invisible to those around him; power, dreams, and ambition makes one visible to the American society.

The narrator encounters powerful individuals and groups throughout the novel who influence the entirety of the story. At the beginning of the novel, signs of racism are exposed to the narrator as a child in his own town; the black people in his community are superior to the white people. In response to what the narrator is viewing about racism, he claims that “power doesn’t have to show off.

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Power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting and self-stopping, self-warming and self-justifying” (Ellison 158). Through the perception of inequality by the narrator, Ralph Ellison conveys that power can be justified by anyone, not just white people. The Brotherhood, which is a political organization to defend rights of the socially oppressed, uses a powerful narrative to explain problems in the world. Brother Jack, who is leader of the Brotherhood, says racial comments and views people as nothing but tools. Brother Jack claims that the narrator is “from the South and [they] know that this is a white man’s world,” but fails to realize that power could be upheld by black people also (Ellison 380).

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Ralph Ellison expresses that power can be upheld by anyone and is a key component to being visible within a society.

In the society where Invisible Man comes from, where some people are superior to others, dreams play an important role. The narrator is forced to live up to expectations and obey white people commands. It is mentioned throughout the novel that black people aspire to be as fortunate as white people. The Invisible man claims that “the world is a possibility, only if you’ll discover it,” believing that black people did not choose the way they lived (Ellison 158). Ralph Ellison uses dreamlike allusions that fade into reality when introducing a new part of the story.

The Invisible Man shows ambition when he tries to be visible through a society who rejects him for his skin tone. Characters in the novel of black individuals expected that they could be acknowledged in society and finally be equal; however, this fails due to their ethnicity. One character, Dr. Bledsoe, is an individual who believed that one day he will be recognized for his amazing accomplishments. Despite being recognized in France for amazing things accomplished, Dr. Bledsoe will never be truly respected due to his race. The protagonist claims that “our fate is to become one, and yet many” of the people who will be recognized for doing something astonishing, despite their race (Ellison 560). By hiding himself in a hole at the end of the novel, the narrator excludes himself from ambition. However, the narrator recognizes that one day one will allow him to narrate his story which will remove him from his hiding and finally make him recognizable.

Ralph Ellison projects to readers that racism still occurs within America’s society. Although the story is written through one perspective, Ellison addresses that many people are striving to live up to standards and expectations. Throughout the novel, themes such as power, dreams, and ambition are conveyed; this develops the idea that these three themes are essential to be visible, or recognizable in society. Despite Ellison conveying these themes, they are not achievable by black people because they do not have a say in society. Thus, can only be pursued by white people.

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Concept of Racism in The Invisible Man. (2021, Oct 15). Retrieved from

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