Ellison Review Essay, Research Paper
Wright Ellison & Baldwin
The protagonist in ?Invisible Man? was a character constantly going through mental changes. All of the changes formed a pattern that served as a theme for the entire novel. First it was invisibility, than he came to a self-realization and finally he became self determined.
In the beginning of the story, the pre ?Emerson?s Office days?, the protagonist was not his own man. This was described by the vet as the Golden Day, in a conversation with Mr. Norton. ?He?s your man, thinks what you think, wants what you want, etc?. In his first stage he wasn?t interested in being an individual. His only aspirations were to be an ?expectable Negro?, like Bledshoe. He owned two Cadillac?s, and ran a school virtually supported by whites. When these white visitors came, he would brown nose, and seem polished, but would never eat at the same table as the whites, or ride in the same car as the whites. Bledshoe felt empowered by his attitudes towards the whites, behind closed doors he laughed at them and felt himself to be the most powerful man in the nation, because he was a black man whom dictated how white money was to be spent.
At this point the protagonist wanted to be a Bledshoe, not for the power but for the respect. He felt that Bledshoe was the best kind of black, equal to the whites in his eyes. In this stage it was the protagonists main goal to please everyone else but him self. He wanted to be able to go to his hometown and schmooze with the same whites that sent him to college, feeling that if he attended and graduated than he would be acceptable in their eyes. I feel the protagonist wanted to be white, knew he couldn?t so instead aspired to be as white a Negro as he could. All in all in the first stage the protagonist optimized the title in, and truly was invisible, even to him self.
Ellison was making an interesting commentary at this point in the novel. Here was a smart, well-mannered and well-spoken black man, and ?the cream of the crop?. The protagonist was a member of the elitist portion of black society, and all he wanted was to be white or the next best thing. So what is being said here? Were the smartest blacks of the time lead to believe that if they wanted anything in life they must realize their inferiority, and act accordingly upon it? With so much intelligence and potential inside the protagonist he only aspired to be someone else?s definition of a man. This very powerful idea was on my mind throughout my experience with ?Invisible Man?
The next stage can be called his self-realization stage. At this point in the protagonists? life he fell to rock bottom. He found out that his future wasn?t sealed, he also realized that he was on his own in life. Dr. Bledshoe had sent him off with only false hopes. Only this wasn?t apparent to the protagonist. He left the university expecting it to only be a temporary move, time to redeem himself for his mistake, one day able to return to the college in a better position than the other students. He would have real world connections and experience, ready to be at the top of his class, and shine in the eyes of Dr. Bledshoe and the trusties. The protagonist didn?t know he was or want to be his own man. This was what Ellison wanted to show the reader.
Ellison slipped his commentary in a subtle but effective way. He used foreshadowing to show where the life of the protagonist would go next. Be your own father, young man. And remember, the world is possibility if only you?ll discover it. Last of all leave the Mr. Nortons alone, and if you don?t know what I mean think about it farewell. So what was being said here? If only the protagonist knew his life would become these words, than what? Was it to be said that if he had spent less time pleasing the Mr. Nortons of the world and more time pleasing himself, then he would have seen the world, but more, seen himself? This was when the protagonist became his own man, and found that he was insigifinicant in the larger picture?invisiable and not on the minds of the world.
So once the protagonist came to realize that he was his own man, what comes next is extraordinary, self-determination. When anyone, all literature aside, comes to realize that they are their own person, like in the case of the protagonist, it is a lot to take in and can lead to difficult results. The very notion that ?I am myself and I am mine? is easily thought but not as easily acted upon. When mixed with the idea of universal invisibility the self-determination is very powerful.
There was also an idea of foreshadowing in this portion of the novel. It came through Mary. Here she was a symbol of good coming to him at his lowest point, taking him in and caring for him. Next he moved in with her, and she became his surrogate mother. She always told him he would do great things, and once he came past his self-realization and became determined he did. Was Ellision commenting on the knowledge of the older generation, giving light to the idea of ?your 20 years old, and you don?t know nothing about nothing?. I feel that his meeting Mary was the catalyst for his future success, and mental growth. Had he not met her, his life would have been different His compensation money would have run out, next he would be out on the streets, possibly becoming a drunk or a thief.
Luckily he met Mary, and his intentions stayed good. He went on to do great things. He became a race leader, inspiring his people to do well and to see the good inside of them. His first instance of self-determination truly showed his good iterations. He saw an angry mob ready to strike out against the oppression, and he did his best to stop them form making the wrong decision. An old couple were being evicted form their home, the people observing the situation were angered. The protagonist saw their anger and tried to calm them. Assuring the group that the black people are a group of Law-abiding people. His attempt failed and the situation turned violent, but he didn?t. In the days to come he became a picture of inspiration to the black community. Working with the communist party to assure the rights of the common people.
Ellison?s commentary at this point was remarkable. It took a lot of thought to arrive at my conclusion as to what exactly he was saying. Through the situations the protagonist was placed in he survived. He was initially invisible, wasn?t his own man. He realized this and became his own man. But upon his self-realization he found his identity and by the end of the novel understood how insignificant he was. How no matter how far he strayed from him self, and joined the world, he would always be invisiable.