Invisible Man is Not Ralph Ellison!

Ralph Ellison shares many similarities to the narrator in Invisible Man, from interacting with the communist party and going to New York.  Even with these similarities the character itself is not a personification of Ralph Ellison,  When writing, Ellison drew from his own life as well as the life of others he knew for inspiration.  In doing so however does not mean that he, himself is the Invisible Man because if that was the case he would of included many more things about his life into the novel.

One striking similarity between Ralph Ellison and The Invisible Man is the fact that they both went to New York in the hopes of paying for college.  In the novel Bledsoe tells the Invisible Man, “You go there [ New York] and earn your next year’s fees,...” (Invisible Man, Pg 145)  Under the assumption that he will return next fall, Invisible Man heads down to New York.  Ralph Ellison also had assumed he would be returning back to Tuskegee University, but like the Invisible man that did not happen.  This of course is where the similarities end and they both branch of into  different paths.   Ellison had decided to relocate and wasn’t tricked into not going back to college.  It was his own decision that lead him to not returning.   Invisible Man however if given the opportunity would of most likely returned back to the college, if he wasn’t kicked out.   Once the Invisible Man finds out he would not be returning he quickly gets a job at liberty paints as a paint mixer.  He then goes to work for Lucius Brockway which results in a traumatic injury.  After he goes to work for Brother Jack and the Communist party as a speaker.  None of this happened to Ellison however.  After relocating he worked a researcher and writer for the New York Federal writers program and managing editor for the Negro Quarterly, he did not however sustain any traumatic injuries as a result of his jobs  He also wrote for communist party and wasn’t a speaker. When comparing the Ralph and Invisible Man you can clearly see that are are very different.  Yes they both ended up in New York, but clearly went down two very different and distinct paths. 

In the novel, The Invisible Man meets Brother Jack and is offered to join his organization.  While the organization’s name is not directly stated, the way it operates clearly parallels with The communist party.  Ralph Ellison also interacted with the communist party during the time he was writing the book.  Some would say that Ellison was using his own experiences when writing the book, and that the Invisible Man was reliving his experiences.  When you compare the book to Ralph Ellison's life you would see extreme similarities.  Ralph and the Invisible Man both were active members of the party and in the end fell away from it do to certain criticisms they were facing.  The two seem extremely parallel, if it wasn't for the fact that these events happened at different times.  At the time that he wrote the invisible man he was extremely active in the communist party.  It wasn't until after the book was published that he faced extreme criticism for his portrayal of the party.  He hadn't left the group at all prior to the book being completed because of this,  Invisible man could not have been reliving Ellison's experiences at all.  Also it should be mentioned that also during the time of the novel being written communism was a big deal in America.  It isn't unusual for many writers to add in current events to their books to make them more realistic and relatable.

The final thing that shows how Ralph Ellison is not the Invisible Man is the fact that Ralph Ellison has said and viewed himself as a renaissance man.  Ralph Ellison was the type of person who definitely loved the arts.  The fact that he was a writer screams, “I Love the Arts!”  The arts is something that he developed a passion for from a very young age.  When he was eight years old he played the Cornet, and later on bought his own trumpet.  When he was able to go to college Ellison made the decision to study music in hopes of becoming a symphony composer.  After going to New York he focused on writing.  The arts are something that is a part of him inside and out, and the Invisible man doesn’t seem to share this passion.  When you read the novel you see how the Invisible Man is a great spokesman, making several speeches.  In the opening of the novel, he says “...I was invited to give the speech at a gathering…” (Invisible Man, pg 17)  The novel opens with the narrator giving speeches.  This is of course showing who the Invisible Man is.   When he sees an elderly couple getting evicted the novel states, “ I stood on the steps...talking rapidly without thought..” (Invisible Man, pg 275)  This shows that public speaking is already inside of him and a big part of who he is.  He even ends up getting a job with the communist party as a public speaker.  Aside from the ending where he is writing his experiences down, the Invisible man shows no interest or passion in the arts like Ellison had.  Why would Ellison write a book using himself as the invisible man without including such a big part of himself? Simple because the Invisible Man is not him at all. 

Looking at all of the evidence Ralph Ellison and the Invisible Man are not the same person.They do share certain similarities on the surface like going to New York and interacting with the communist party, when you really look at them they are actually completely different.  Also the fact that Ralph did not make the Invisible Man a passionate arts lover like himself further shows just how unlike the two actual are. 






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