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Allusions in The Invisible Man

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Norris Nicholson

on 4 March 2014

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Transcript of Allusions in The Invisible Man

Allusions in
The Invisible Man

Brief Summary
Sibyl & Dante's Inferno
Ras the Destroyer
The Narrator
Allusions in:
The Invisible Man
Tripp Hemker and Norris Nicholson
Tying it all Together
Throughout the novel, Ellison uses numerous allusions from history, literature, and the bible. As a whole, these allusions add strong undertones to the piece and give the story alternate meanings by linking it to unique and important references outside the world Ellison dreams up.

In the world of literature, allusions offer interesting and insightful elements to works and, as a whole, they help to add a layer of depth by using subtle points to push the reader in the right direction.
College and Booker T. Washington
-The Brotherhood:
Represents the American Communist Party in many aspects
May be an allusion to many white "equality" groups that did little for the black community
Br'er rabbit:
While at the hospital, the narrator is asked "Boy, who was Brer Rabbit?"
Connection is ironic, as Br'er Rabbit is a trickster who succeeds by his wits rather than by brawn
The name "Br'er Rabbit", a syncope of "Brother Rabbit", has been linked to both African and Cherokee cultures.
From this point, the invisible man doesn't openly question his identity, but instead begins to question his role. He even finds a way to fill his cultural role, without the use of violence, and instead goes into public speaking with the brotherhood.
Ras is both a visionary and a prophet in the novel, and has a view based around self reliance, much like Ralph Waldo Emerson.
-Ras is very similar to several black nationalists, including Marcus Garvey with his back to Africa movement that fought for separation.
-Ras is a direct allusion to Shiva, the destroyer and judge. By the time he starts calling himself the destroyer, Ras has gone completely mad. He is similar to Shiva in his untamed passion, and plans to get rid of the invisible man and destroy the brotherhood, both of which he despises and opposes the views of.
-In this aspect, Ras has started the violence that is to destroy and rebuild all.
-Most importantly, the Invisible man will grow from his escape and increase his level of understanding how and why everything works and exists as it does.
Reference to the Greek Orical
Narrator trys to get information out of her
Shows her purpose in the story and gives the narrator a slight meaning
Dante's Inferno:
Follows similar story structure
Intro - The Battle Royal
Purpose - Trueblood and Collage
Passion - Clifton's death
Perception - Imitation of Rhinehart and the Harlem riot
Throughout the novel, Ellison infuses a bit of his own life, ideals and experiences. One of these being purely his name.
Emerson's son- "Identity! My God! Who has any identity anymore anyway?" This is a point at which the invisible man starts to notice more and more how little his opinion is cared about, and how invisible he truly is. This is also ironic, as Emerson supported an idea of individuality, or self-reliance. This event is likely an allusion to Ellison's learning and influence from Emerson, and the sense of enlightenment that comes with his works.
Ellison uses these allusions to not only make the story more interesting, but to add a subliminal layer to the work. As a whole, "The Invisible Man" unitizes multiple references to rich, meaningful outside works in order to show not only the longevity of the issues that are addressed, but the importance of solving them as well.

As with any work of literature, allusions in "The Invisible Man" serve to improve the story overall by subtly adding to the meaning. They can also provide hints and can foreshadow to later events.

Their use in Ellison's work played an important part within the novel and greatly contributed towards the analysis of the piece as a whole.
The invisible man's college is an obvious reference to the Tuskegee institute, of which Booker T. Washington was the founder. Washington supported the idea that Blacks should not challenge Jim Crow laws, but instead along with them, much like the invisible man himself.
The college, which represents Washington's Tuskegee Institute, represents these ideas, as well as raises the question as to whether education is helping or hurting.
Each allusion that Ellison chooses to use has a specific and important meaning in the context of the book. by combining these slight nudges at the reader together, a more complete interpenetration of the novel can be extrapolated, regardless of what it may be. While some of these have very little to do with eachother specifically, together they help to enrich the story and give contextual clues.
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