Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

April 6, 2017

Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man in 1952. The novel is about a nameless African American who lives underground because people refuse to see him. Then the timeline shifts back to the early 1930’s when he was a young man and he was rewarded with a scholarship to a black college in his small, southern town. He eventually ends up in New York looking for work. He finds a job that will end up affecting on him for the rest of his life. The protagonist undergoes many difficult tasks because of the color of his skin. This novel shows the difficulty of being an African American in during segregation.


One theme the book portrays is fighting stereotype with stereotype is not always the best solution to a problem. For example, the main character’s grandfather explains his belief that in order to mock racism African Americans should exaggerate their willingness to serve or please whites. Another example where this theme is evident is when Dr. Bledsoe, the president of the main character’s college, thinks that African Americans can best achieve success by working hard and adopting the manners and speech of whites. On the other hand, Ras the Exhorter, a public speaker in New York and a symbol to African American people, thinks that African Americans should rise up and take their freedom by destroying whites. Bledsoe and Ras aim to authorize themselves but ultimately weaken themselves. Instead of exploring their own identities, as the protagonist struggles to do throughout the book, Bledsoe and Ras commit themselves and their people to stereotypical roles. The novel shows a first person view of what it is like to be a African American man in America in the 1930’s and what it means to be fighting for the end of segregation and equality among everyone.

What I am learning about the culture is that people who are white and people who are black live apart from each other in their communities, and they have different rights. Invisible Man reveals that the Ralph Ellison is against segregation. I believe that he titled the novel Invisible Man because when there was segregation, African Americans were not seen in the same way as whites Americans. They were not given nearly as many rights, and you could say that they were treated as if they were invisible. This book was very controversial for the time period because, when it was published, segregation was still an active system. Segregation was in the U.S. a little over a decade. I enjoyed reading the novel, Invisible Man.

I would recommend it to others because it is very realistic and the characters in it, especially the main character, make mistakes that they have to deal with throughout the novel. This creates conflict between characters and makes the book more interesting. Another reason why you should read this book is because there are moments where it will put you on edge and make you wonder what will happen next.

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