“The Invisible Man” Essay, Research Paper
Critique of “The Invisible Man”
The goal of every person is to find their place in society. The journey
itself is a hard one, but sometimes unforeseen obstacles make this journey
nearly impossible. The book, The Invisible Man, takes us along the journey
with a man that has no name. You may think that it is odd not to give the main
character of a book a name, but if you think about it, what purpose does a name
serve? Isn’t is said that a man’s actions speak louder than his words? In this
story, the man’s actions go hand in hand with his words, to make him desired by
some, feared and hated by others.
The journey begins with the man fighting for his very education. Earning a
scholarship meant to physically destroy the competition. It showed that to get
an education he had to act the exact opposite of an educated man. He had to
rely upon his own primitive brutality to insure his education. He was then
mocked by having to recite a speech he was to memorize, which showed the total
disrespect the people who were giving the scholarship had for the future
After getting into school, a simple job turned into an unforeseen disaster
that would change his life forever. He was to chauffeur Mr. Norton, a founder
of the college he attended. Mr. Norton was a well educated but very ignorant
man. He felt that the college was doing all of the good that could be done. He
had no idea of the evils that dwelled upon the grounds. Dr. Bledsoe, the head
of the college, had arranged for Mr. Norton to go for a tour of the grounds, but
didn’t expect for him to see ?everything? at the college. Mr. Norton asked to
see some of the more unseen areas of the college, so the driver had to oblige
him. Their they met a man with an incestuous past. Mr. Norton was dumb founded,
he had no idea something like this could happen at his college. This just shows
the many evils we come across in our lives that appear like shadows, taking us
by total surprise. The phrase, ?Out of sight, out of mind?, seems to hold great
relevance. When you choose to ignore the bad things in life you become weak,
and when they finally do hit you, you may never recover from the blow.
The next destination they reach is the Golden Day, a hotel/brothel which
exists because no one bothers to do anything about it. It’s a symbol of what
happens when problems are not kept in check. Inside the Golden Day exist some
Sanitarium Patients who represent the many faces of society. What is normal?
These patients may have been average citizens one day, but the strains of
society have taken their toll upon them. The struggle to blend in with society
has caused them such stress that it has robbed them of their sanity. These
peoples’s journeys have had to many twists and turns which they could not
After returning, Dr. Bledsoe was informed of what had happened. In a rage
he blamed the driver for everything. This shows society’s need to blame someone
or something. Nothing can be what it appears to be. Someone has to be blamed
for what happened. This marks the end of the beginning of the man with no
identity. Due to circumstances beyond his control he is about to have his
entire dreams unknowingly destroyed.
The man with no name is instructed to go to work for the summer to earn
money for the next semester, which he unknowingly will never see. He is given
letters to deliver to different businessmen in order to get a job. These
letters speak badly of him. Which he discovers when one of the secretaries
shows him the letter. He then gets a job at a factory where they make paint.
There he meets Mr. Brockway his boss, a modern day dictator. Brockway is king
of his domain, the basement, where the work that no one else wants to do is done.
Brockway believes he is a self-made genius due to the fact he helped build the
basement and knows where everything is. This shows how an ego can be dangerous.
Brockway is willing to kill to keep his position. Even though it may seem like
nothing to everyone else, to him, it is his life. It’s his only reason to exist,
and he doesn’t want anyone to take it from him. When an accident occurs he
blames it upon his assistant, who is severely hurt during the accident.
The man with no name awakes in some kind of hospital to find he has
undergone some kind of surgery. The surgery, I believe, represents the great
changes that everyone must go through in order to get accepted into society.
Even though they may be done against our will, or unknowingly to us.
He awakes to stumble out into the street to be discovered by Mary, a kind
hearted black women who offers him a place to stay. Mary represents those few
people who go out of their way in order to help those people less fortunate then
themselves. Mary is the one light in the darkness to help the lost traveler
upon his journey. She gives him the kindness and support that he needs during
this difficult time of his life.
One night he happens upon a large group of people witnessing an elderly
black couple being evicted. He gives a speech denouncing the actions of the
men who are evicting them. A riot follows, but he escapes by running along the
roof tops. A man who heard his speech offers him a job as a speaker for his ?
Brotherhood?, which is a combined group of white and black people working for a
better Harlem. He has discovered his talent which will lead to his success, and
failure. His gift of speech is a double-edged sword, it will be the source of
his success, but it will lead to his being used and eventually discarded like a
used paper cup.
Over the next few months he is trained and groomed like a pig to be sent to
slaughter. He is then sent to speak to the people in Harlem to try and unite
them together. During this time he meets two unique people, one of which is Ras
the Exhorter. Ras wants to lead a violent revolution of Harlem. He is the evil
of Harlem incarnate, he has no compassion for the people, he doesn’t care who
dies as long as his will is served. Ras does not believe that white and black
people should work together.
The other person he meets is Clifton, a black man, in charge of his
security. Clifton is a person who believes in all people working together, he
often violently renounces Ras the Exhorter.
An interview with a news paper reporter leads the man with no name to be
put on a sort of trial by the Brotherhood. They are not pleased that the
article only deals with an individual and not the whole Brotherhood. This leads
to the man with no name to be moved out of Harlem for a short time.
After returning to Harlem, he finds that Ras has taken almost total control.
He sees Clifton on the street selling small black dolls. This shows how society
can crush a man’s will. After an argument with a cop Clifton is shot and killed,
a funeral is arranged and the invisible man is ridiculed by the Brotherhood for
making a hero out of a traitor. This shows one of the great flaws of the
Brotherhood, their inability to forgive their own members. He finally leaves
the Brotherhood learning that they valued him for his gift of speech not his
view. It is so common for people not to look at the inner abilities of a person,
they are often more than they seem.
A riot commences and he sees the true purpose of the Brotherhood, to have
Harlem destroy itself. This leads to the utter destruction of all he believes
in. His journey has led to a turn that passed through hell itself. All he had
worked for was for nothing. He was used and had no idea that it had happened.
The reason I believe the book was named The Invisible Man, was for one simple
reason, he was one of society’s nameless victims.
The author of The Invisible Man is Ralph Ellison. He was born in Oklahoma
and trained as a musician. He wrote many short stories and fiction for
magazines. The Invisible Man won him the Nation Book Award and the Russwurm
Award. He was a charter member of the National Council on the Arts and
Humanities. He died in 1994.
The main character was a very strong yet naive character. In example, he
was strong enough to take the job of chauffeuring Mr. Norton, but he didn’t
realize that he shouldn’t take him to certain areas on campus. He was a very
trusting character, which may be a good trait, but it could get you into alot of
trouble. A good example of this is how he trusted the Brotherhood to support
him and his views. He was a strong character in the sense that through all of
the hardships that he had faced throughout his journey he stuck with his ideas.
The Invisible Man has many ties with reality in the sense that it shows how
cruel and brutal life can be. Our main character worked hard to get into school
only to have it taken away from him. The same happened to him when he got a job
at the factory. The final and most devastating blow is dealt by the Brotherhood.
They took him in as one of their own and made him feel welcome. The made it
seem as though they were working for the same goals they he was. Only to betray
him in the end and use him for their own misguided wants.
This book is similar to the play Hamlet. Both of the main characters are
strong yet naive. They both endure many tragedies. Although the ones in Hamlet
are closely related to family, they both deceive the main characters to destroy
their dreams. The main characters both fight back though, they defend their
beliefs viciously never giving in to their enemies.