Invisible Man: American Story Through Various Themes

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The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a novel scripted in 1940 when America was experiencing political and social turbulence. This novel gives the readers a definitive and in-depth exposure to the African American experience during this period. Ralph addresses the issues that confront everyone in modern-day America as well as over its history. As such, the novel does illustrate the American story through struggles such as racism, personal identity, and responsibility. The book tells a story of man, regarded as the invisible man, who is an intelligent young African American born and raised in the rural south. The invisible man dreams of an uplifting of the black race through humility and arduous work as culture and education have influenced him. He, however, grows to understand that this philosophy was hypocritical after he finds himself in trouble due to his idealism. As such, the novel Invisible man illustrates the American story through the theme’s racism, ideology, lies, and deceit, power, ambition, and identity.

The novel invisible man illustrates the American story through the theme of racism, with challenges such as discrimination and inequality. This theme is in line with the American story as racism and inequality have been vital issues all along with the history of America, which the minority races have had to deal with this challenge. We see the discrimination of the black man even by those in leadership, ‘That black man, as you call him, was a traitor,’ Brother Jack said. ‘A traitor’ (360). In this novel, the main character, the invisible man’s challenges are associated with his race just like the many other black Americans as we see them killed for being black, “He was shot because he was black and because he resisted. Mainly because he was black’ (362). With his race being a hindrance to his ability to progress and better his life, which is in line with the American story where many young intelligent individuals do not access opportunities to better their lives due to their race. In addition to this, like many young people from minority races, the invisible man believes he can fight for racial equality, which sees him join the brotherhood as he thinks he can fight for justice within the ideology of the organization. Similarly, in the American story, racial prejudice causes people to view others not for who they are but on the bases of which race they are, result in skewed judgmental stereotypes. Moreover, just like many Americans, racism experiences have shaped their personalities, with the inequality and injustice that he faces based on his race, aiding him in finding his identity. Racial experiences have shaped the perceptions of many in the American story, often not in positive ways, as they did with the narrator of this novel.

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Secondly, the American story depiction in this novel shows through the theme of ideology. The book is depictive of several forms of political ideology synonymous with black politics, as clear in the American story. These include conservative progress, communism, and black nationalism. Conservative progress is an American ideology characterized by conservation and respect for the American traditions, individualism, and the value of liberty. Black nationalism, on the other hand, is the support for unity a political determination of the black community in the United States, while keeping the identity of the black people. We even see the narrator joins the brotherhood, a group based on black ideology, “Teach me the beautiful ideology of Brotherhood’ (322). These are ideologies that have consistently been predominant in the American story. As such, showing the book’s illustration of the American story.

Thirdly, the novel illustrates the American story through its depiction of the theme of power. In the book, the subject of power affects all relationships shown in the book, with the most dominant form of power being white power, “when you buck against me, you’re bucking against power, rich white folk’s power” (111). We also see white power we the narrator say “you were trained to pretend that you respected them and acknowledged in them the same quality of authority and power in your world as the whites” (174). The book depicts a society that skewed with one race holding all the control and the other oppressed. White power has been a social issue that has persisted in the American story all over its history, even to the current day. It is a belief held by a section of people denoting that whites are superior to all other races that are present in the United States, and thus, the whites should have dominance over other races. Also, white power denotes political ideology that has existed throughout America’s history, aiming at political, social, and institutional dominance of other races by whites. This ideology saw the rise of oppressive policies such as Jim Crow laws. As such, the novel is illustrative of the American story of white supremacy, with the narrator narrating how black boys stripped off their dignity to humor the white man (Ellison and Callahan).

Additionally, the themes of identity also depict the American story. To show the weight of the invisibility of his true self, the narrator goes on to realize that his identity is invisible to those around him, “they tolerate Rinehart, then they will forget it and even with them you are invisible” (392). From the book, the narrator Invisible Man conflicts with his perception of himself and what others perceive him to be. He, however, separates himself from the crowd, and finally come to understand himself, “but first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!” (13). as seen in the narration, the narrator is quoted saying that they refuse to see him because of how he feels about his identity in the society.

More so, the themes of lies, deceit, as well as ambition, also play a role in this novel’s depiction of the American story. The narrator is quoted saying “and white mahn can be settled with some blasted lies in some bloody books written by the white mahn in the first place” (291), and we also see the talk of lies told around “plenty good-laughing-lies will be told in the barber shops and beauty parlors” further showing the theme of lies in this book (353). Like many youths in America, the narrator struggles with defining his own identity, the theme of ambition is also illustrative of the ambitious nature of many intelligent and young Americans from minority races who become hindered from achieving their dreams due to their skin color,

Ultimately, the novel Invisible Man is Illustrative of the American Story through its various themes. These include the theme of power, With the most dominant form of power being white power, a type of power inequality that has persisted in the American story. The racism theme in the novel also illustrates part of the American story, with the main character’s invisible man challenges centered on his race. And the narrator’s race is a massive hindrance to his ability to progress and improve his position in life. The theme of ideology also shows how this novel illustrates part of the American story, with ideologies synonymous with the American story depicted in the novel. These include; conservative progress, communism, and black nationalism. As such, this book effectively illustrates part of the American story in its themes.   


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