, Research Paper
Living A Lie
In the novel, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, a character known as the narrator goes through an eye-opening experience where he allows society to destroy his identity. The narrator describes himself as an invisible man living in a displaced world where people do not notice him. He becomes lost within the racial conformities of time affecting his transition to manhood. It forces him to live a life as a lie in a world where he is not honest with himself; insecure about his beliefs; and confused about his identity. Destined to be one of the prominent black men of America, he succumbs to reality by conforming to the views of others.
As the novel develops, the narrator uses dishonesty as a means to get what he wants in a world where values have little meaning. His misconstrued virtue helps him cope with himself and society. Determined to believe that they never see his true appearance, he makes up stories about crime and violence. At times, the narrator would even argue with people he did not know to create a world he thought he could live in. He conforms to the mindless games played upon him as a byproduct of his environment. He finds his life misunderstood and unparallel to others he meets.
As the novel moves forward, the narrator begins thinking of ways to return to college and make something of himself. Aware of the fact that they kicked him out of school for unacceptable conduct, he still believes his future is promising and nothing will stand in his way. It is only when he finds out from Mr. Emerson that he has been mislead that he comes to grips with his existence. An existence that is nothing more than a shadow of his reality. Soon, he finds his beliefs are unrealistic and impractical. He abandons his hopes of returning to college, after realizing his dreams of ever graduating is remote.
In time, the narrator accepts his fate and is determined to change his identity. Encouraged by friends and concerned brothers, he joins a Brotherhood order where they teach him how to be a better person. After the narrator becomes a member of the Brotherhood, he finds himself carrying out orders and complying with everything asked of him. “Right or wrong,” they instruct him to do what they ask without question. Disappointed and confused with the Brotherhood, he decides to flee and assume the identity of a man named Rhinehart. This identity leads him to fame, power, and respect. It is not long before the narrator realizes his new identity as a hoodlum, ironically, is one of a preacher as well. Completely stunned, the narrator concludes that an individual’s identity is based upon the society in which they live. He finally accepts the truth about himself and how he fits within it. More important, he faces living life as himself rather than a lie. In the narrator’s words, “it is best to become one, and not many.”
The narrator is a man living in a world where society judges those, who judge themselves for mere satisfaction of achievement. He tries to create a man to live in a world full of disillusionment, thus, creating a man that lives a lie with dishonesty, insecurity, and false identity. In the end, the narrator reverts to the person he’s always been and accepts the fact that people judge life by the way they live. And not by the way most of us want it to be.