The Invisible Man Book Review Sample
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: Search of Identity in the Divided Society
Feeling invisible when surrounded by a crowd is a common problem in a big city. This often becomes a cause of depression and people’s search of identity. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a novel about a man who not only felt invisible among other people but also was convinced that his race was the reason of his invisibility. Invisible Man begins as incoherent brainstorming that makes the narrator get lost in his own conflicting thoughts, but finally helps him realize that he needs his invisibility to survive in the divided society of the 1950s. His struggle with his own conflicting thoughts supports the central theme of the novel, which is finding one’s place in the divided society, as well as reveals the nature of conflict between black and white people.
At first glance, the narrator seems confused. His thoughts are rather chaotic. He begins with complaining about his invisibility, but then confesses that he is sometimes pleased with it. In this line “It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves” (paragraph 3) we can see how conflicting the narrator’s thoughts are. The narrator confuses us and himself when he mentions that he is not complaining about his invisibility or protesting to it, but, at the same time, tells how his invisibility almost cost an innocent person his life. In general, the novel reminds of brainstorming that the narrator uses to arrange his thoughts.
As the story unfolds, the narrator becomes even more lost in his thoughts. He seems to be quite happy with his life. He lives in a “warm hole” (paragraph 6) that is filled with light. In the line “…it is strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light” (paragraph 7) we can see that the narrator realizes his invisibility and does his utmost to add meaning to his life. This light contributes to the invisible man’s search of identity. It seems like the narrator is drawing parallels between his living in white society and his hole full of light in the darkness of a forgotten building. He sees himself clearly among other people, but walks among them as if in darkness trying “not to awaken the sleeping ones” (paragraph 5). This line suggests that he realizes his own invisibility but does not want other people to notice him.
All these ideas gradually form the central theme of the Invisible Man, namely finding one’s own place in society. When the narrator calls himself a black man that lives “in a building rented strictly to whites” (paragraph 5), we understand that he feels odd in the society he lives in. Even though he denies that such treatment hurts him, his identity search actually leads him to an important discovery. From the line “You strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you” (paragraph 3) we realize why black people, including the narrator, sometimes act violently as in case with the white man the narrator attacked. This helps us understand the nature of the conflict between black and white people who belong to the same society but who are unwilling to accept each other.
In conclusion, Invisible Man is a story of a black person trying to find his place in society. The central theme of the novel is the search of identity. Many elements, including chaotic thoughts of the narrator, his struggle between wishing to be seen and to remain invisible, and his isolated way of life support this theme and finally help the narrator, perhaps unwillingly, reveal the essence of the friction between black and white people. A closer look at this piece of writing, incoherent and unclear at first glance, discloses valuable emotional experience of a person who is rejected by society and who suffers from this but is too proud to admit this.
- Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Random House, Inc.