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The Symbol of Blindness in the Invisible Man

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Throughout the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Elison, many symbols are used to allude to a specific idea or opinion that the author holds, or wants to portray the narrator of the story as holding. One of the most important symbols in Invisible Man is that of blindness, which is generally associated with how people purposefully avoid seeing and confronting the truth. The loss of identity and inevitable invisibility of the black race, is the result of the issue of blindness. Thus the book was named Invisible Man referring not to physical invisibility, but the metaphorical invisibility of the narrator as a consequence of society's, and his own, blindness.

The narrator continually stated his opinion that people's incapability of seeing what they do not want to see--or their inability to see that which their prejudice does not allow them to see--has forced him into a life of literal invisibility. He is forced into this life of transparency by white society in that they refuse to acknowledge him as a person--an individual. To some of white society he is on par with an animal, or maybe beneath even the prestige of wildlife. To others, though they would like to believe (and tell others that they truly do believe) that they equate the black race with the white, the black man is simply a pawn in the plans they have for their own life--an object of necessity to a certain outcome that they care about because they want to accomplish that outcome, but not because they are an individual person who has feelings, a soul, and a coherent, critical-thinking mind. Not only does the white society that the narrator surrounds himself with impose a sense of invisibility on him, but his own people--black people. Black society in some ways also contributed to the narrator's lack of identity. During the course of the novel, black society repeatedly showed symptoms of identity loss. They accepted

the stereotypes imposed on them by white society, and even their own. Blacks were rapists, thieves, murderous, or they were submissive and humble, never crossing the line, however, to social equality. They spent so much of their life trying to fit into the only roles the culture offered them, and not enough of their life trying to break the mold and figure out who they really were, not what they were. Because the narrator was a part of this society, it was inevitable that he inherit this lack-of-identity mentality, and inevitable that he was surrounded by and encouraged by others of his race to continue in this outlook . On top of his surrounding society, the narrator also had to deal with his own self, his non-existent sense of "self". He had spent his whole life submitting to and depicting only the personalities and characters imposed on him by the outside world, and he has the epiphany, causing him to come to the realization of his lifelong rejection to his own identity, when he disguises himself as Rinehart on accident, and realizes that Rinehart is everyone to everybody, and adopts endless personalities, which he then compared to himself and realized the feebleness of his own identity.

However, prejudice against others, or even ones self, is not the only kind of blindness in the novel. Many characters also refuse to acknowledge truths about themselves or their communities, and this refusal appears consistently in the form of blindness imagery. Such as in chapter

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