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“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison Essay Sample

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“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison Essay Sample

Conflict surrounding justice is an issue that is experienced and overcome by many different groups of people. In “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the narrator faces issues of justice due to his race, and inability to be an equal in a white man’s world. While faced with this issue the narrator is forced to respond to the injustice he is shown, and he does this with his own understanding of the justice he deserves, and with noticeable success; these experiences he goes through are immensely significant to the theme of the novel since its main focus is invisibility, and what one needs to do in order to deserve justice and visibility.

The narrator is never named in this novel, which gives the first hint to his inferiority throughout the story. His placement in a predominately white world also adds to this feeling of inferiority. Injustice is first seen when he is brought to a wealthy white gathering to read a speech, but is first ridiculed by them through fighting and trick money made to humiliate the young black men. When the narrator is sent to college on a scholarship he feels that the injustice of those events is compensated by his opportunity in school. However, when he is expelled his feeling of invisibility grows, and the ease to which he accepts it shows that he may not fully understand the injustice he is being shown by his supposed superiors. He seems to find himself and his beliefs once he sees an old couple being evicted from their homes, and he gives a speech to rally people into standing up for, and helping the old couple. This act shows he may realize the injustice being shown toward the old couple, and that he may realize the injustices shown toward him. After that he continues to rally groups for the Brotherhood, and through that unity and that group he develops an idea of what is right, what is wrong, and the kind of justice he deserves as a black individual.

Once the narrator sees the type of life he should be able to live he takes action with the Brotherhood, and the things he does for that group parallel his own search for justice. Although they believe he may be working against the group, and in favor of his own personal gain alone, he is really just conflicted about what he deserves. However, when he is working with the optim white paint company, he realizes how much work he, and other black workers go through to make things that their white superiors take all the credit for. The realization of this injustice fuels his work with the Brotherhood since he has a cause to drive him toward success. When Clifton leaves the brotherhood and degrades himself to selling Sambo dolls, the narrator feels very offended by Clifton’s action. He views the Sambo dolls as very degrading to his race since they symbolize the puppetry of the blacks in relation to the white puppet masters controlling the black puppets, or servants. This progression represents the level to which the narrator has developed an idea of the meaning of injustice, which leads him to more driven and successful action.

Although the narrator did not incite the final riot toward the end of the book, it is then that he realizes the kind of action that must take place to receive the justice he feels he deserves. When he is trapped underground during the riot he realizes that he does not have to make himself invisible. And, just like the man he was often mistaken for with multiple identities, he too can be visible in any way he chooses to be. Perhaps all along justice to the narrator was mostly defined as the ability to make an identity for him, instead of being labeled by others. The realization that he defines himself, and the white superiors do not define who he is, shows the success to which he has found the justice he was looking for.

The theme of this novel relates directly to identity, and the ways in which race and ones rights can inflict injustices on ones right to their own self-declared identity. The search the narrator goes on to find justice for him is very important to the novel as a whole since he is not just finding the justice he deserves, but he is also finding the right to live life the way he chooses to, without having the identity of an invisible man. As he gains these beliefs of what is right and the wrongs that have been done to him, he gains the power to use that knowledge in order to fix the mistakes he had been accepting most of his life. Once he was successful in this he was able to rid himself of his grandfather’s advice to always keep running, and was able to take a stand for himself, show his visibility, and rightfully take the kind of justice he deserves.

Although the story ends before the reader is able to see the success to which the narrators visibility changes his life, he/she is still able to see
the success to which the narrator realized and fought for the rights he deserves. As the character went through the journey of developing a meaning of justice, and taking action for what he deserves, he was able to show that identity is something that is equal that can be defined by no one but oneself, as long as he/she is able to realize and stand for the rights that they have as an individual.

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