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Invisible Man Motifs

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Kathleen Huie

on 25 March 2014

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Transcript of Invisible Man Motifs

Invisible Man
By: Ralph Ellison

Themes
Ambition and Disillusionment
Racism as an Obstacle to Individual Identity
The Limitation of Ideology
The Danger of Fighting Stereotype with Stereotype
Power and Self-Interest
Characters
The Narrator- Invisible Man is the narrator in this novel, a black in the South who believes he is invisible because others are racist towards him and discriminate against him. The narrator struggles with his blindness of the world as he tries to find his identity.
Mr. Norton- He is a wealthy white trustee of the college who is driven around by the narrator. After visiting Trueblood and learning of his story, he has a weird fascination with Trueblood's relationship with his daughter.
Mr. Trueblood- Trueblood is a black man who lives in the old slave quarters who impregnated his wife and daughter. The blacks see him as a disgrace to their community while the whites help him and show interest in him and his family.
Mr. Bledsoe- He is the President of the college who is concerned with his social status and power over the college and other blacks.
Characters (cont.)
Ras the Exhorter- Ras the Exhorter is a West India man who opposes the Brotherhood and wants to overthrow the white supremacy.
Tod Clifton- Clifton is a member of the Brotherhood and lives in Harlem. He is arrested and killed when selling Sambo dolls on the streets.
Mary Rambo- Mary cares for the narrator and provides food and shelter after IM's stay in the hospital. Mary's name is meant to be symbolic by representing the Virgin Mary in which she is caring and a motherly figure.
Symbols
The Briefcase (Chapter 1)
The Liberty Paints Plant
The Coin Bank (Chapter 15)
The Sambo Doll (Chapter 20)
The Dark-Lens Glasses (Chapter 23)
Motifs
Reoccurring symbol that supports the theme
Invisibility
Sight/Lack of sight
Identity
Social class/Social status
Humiliation
Music
Dream
Violence
Briefcase (Chapter 1)
Liberty Paints Plant
The Coin Bank (Chapter 15)
The Sambo Doll (Chapter 20)
The Dark-Lens Glasses (Chapter 23)
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Symbols
Motifs:
Humiliation
"I didn't want to explain. It made me feel ashamed, but he sensed that I knew something and pressed me...'They say that her father did it.'" (48-49)
"Twenty-five years seemed to have lapsed between his handing me the letter and my grasping its message. I could not believe it, tried to read it again. I could not believe it, yet I had a feeling that it all had happened before. I rubbed my eyes, and they felt sandy as though all the fluids had suddenly dried." (191)
"I left the room and went into a vacant office, boiling with anger and disgust. Wrestrum has snatched me back to the South in the midst of one of the top Brotherhood committees and I felt naked." (403)
Motif:
Invisibility
"The invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their
inner eyes
, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. (3)
"I didn't understand in those pre-invisible day that their hate, and mine too, was charged with fear." (47)
"Let me be honest with you- a feat which, by the way, I find of the utmost difficulty. When one is invisible he finds such problems as good and evil, honesty and dishonesty, of such shifting shapes that he confuses one with the other, depending upon who happens to be looking through him at the time.Well, now I've been trying to look through myself, and there's a risk in it." (572)
Motifs:
Identity
"All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory.I was naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer...I had to discover that I am an invisible man!" (15)
"Here within this quiet greenness I possessed the only identity I had ever known, and I was losing it. In this brief moment of passage I became aware of the connection between these lawns and buildings and my hopes and dreams." (99)
"I realized, a new beginning, and I would have to take that part of myself...Perhaps the part of me that observed listlessly but saw all, missing nothing, was still the malicious, arguing part; the dissenting voice, my grandfather part; the cynical, disbelieving part-the traitor self that always threatened internal discord." (335)
Motifs:
Blindness
"I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.. When they approach me they see only me surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination-indeed, everything and anything except me."
"...and I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding." (36)
"'As leader of the Brotherhood, I am their leader.'...as suddenly something seemed to erupt out of [Brother Jack's] face...I stared at the glass...and there on the bottom the glass lay an eye. A glass eye. A buttermilk white eye distorted by the light rays. An eye staring fixedly at me as from the dark waters of a well." (473-474)
Characters (cont.)
The Founder- The Founder represents Booker T. Washington and is questioned by the narrator for whether he is helping the blacks or blinding them.
Emerson's son- The son is gay in the novel, which shows that he can relate to the narrator in which he has been rejected and discriminated against himself.
Mr. Kimbro- The narrator's first boss at the Liberty Paints Plant where they make "Optic White" paint.
Lucius Brockway- Brockway is a foreman at Liberty Paints who knows how the Optic White paint is made. He makes the paint and regulates the pressure gauges, which later he uses to cause the explosion in the factory in fear of losing his job.
Brother Jack- He is a white who is the leader of the Brotherhood who claims to be fighting for the rights of the discriminated, he has opposing viewpoints and is racist himself.
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