Themes Of The Invisible Man Essay, Research Paper
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison which distorts reality many times in many different ways. This distortion creates a significant effect on the reader. The Narrator’s blindness, his dreams, and his surrealistic experiences convey emotion and dramatically show the central theme of the novel, a quest for identity, much greater then realism would.
IM’s blindness contributes the most to the distortion of the novel during the Battle royal scene. The narrator literally and figuratively wears a blindfold in this scene, making him blind. His literal blindfold gives us a distorted description of the events of the fight itself, making it much more dramatic. His figurative blindfold, introduced in the battle royal scene, continues through the book as a symbol of IM’s struggle for identity. To an extent, the reader is kept blind as well while the figurative blindfold is worn, because of the first person point of view of the novel. We don’t really realize the betrayal of Bledsoe, or that of the brotherhood, until IM does. This is achieved through the use of dialogue and descriptive imagery. Thus IM’s blindness has the effect of blinding the reader, distorting everything we think we see. Our reality is distorted as much as the narrator’s is.
The Invisible Man has many dreams in the novel, but none create a greater effect then when IM dreams of his own castration. Ellison wants to show here that IM is realizing what all of the other people in the book have been trying to do : relieve him of his manhood. He does this by evoking a dream from IM, one that uses vivid imagery and symbolism. This dream, like all those in the novel, tell IM’s thoughts, and send a message to the reader. The narrator sums up the message when he concludes, after his dream, “I was through and , in spite of the dream, I was whole.” The dreams distort reality by symbolizing IM’s feelings and thoughts, which allow the reader to make generalizations about IMs condition. For example, in the castration dream, the entire river that his “jewels” are hanging over turns blood red, symbolizing the blood IM has shed in his quest for identity.
A third event that shows the effective distortion in The Invisible Man is the hospital scene. Here, the main character is literally distorted, changed by the shock treatment from the doctors. The language Ellison uses is confusing to the reader, distorting what is going on even more. IM’s comments are distorted, due to his mind being made blank by the treatment. He does not know who or where he is, and is detached from the doctors and the hospital. This suggests another of Ellison’s themes, that of man’s struggle to gain identity when surrounded by machinery and science.
The distortion in The Invisible Man works better then realism could have. IM’s blindness, his dreams, and his surrealistic experiences convey emotion, and show IM’s feelings, in addition to helping us understand the meaning of the novel, by distorting reality. These make Ellison’s message possible : In one way or another, we are all blind, and need to learn how to remove the blindfolds blinding us.