The Invisible Man


The novel, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison explores the issue of life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through the main character. In
the novel, Invisible Man, the main character is not giving a name. In
our paper we will refer to him as the Protagonist. Ellison explores
how unalienable rights cannot be obtained without freedom from the
obstacles in life especially from one's own fears. In the novel
Invisible Man, several major characters affect the Protagonist. One of
the major characters is Dr. Bledsoe, who is the president of the
school. Dr. Bledsoe had a major effect on the main character, because
the Protagonist idolizes him. "He was every thing that I hope to be,"
(Ellison 99), but the Dr. Bledsoe degrades him when we says "Why, the
dumbest black bastard in the cotton patch knows that the only way to
please a white man is to tell him a lie" (Emerson 137) and calls him a
Nigger. In addition, the Protagonist grandfather had a major effect on
him. The ! Protagonist's grandfather last word, "Live in the Lions
mouth" (Ellison 16) has a lasting effect on him throughout most of the
novel. Finally and most important, Ras the Destroyer, whom the
Protagonist fears whom along with Dr. Bledsoe in a separate
encountering calls him "a educated fool" (Ellison 140). The first
encounter of the Protagonist own fears is introduce when his
grandfather' s tells the Protagonist to go against the white man by
"overcome 'em with yeses" (Emerson 16). These words haunts the
Protagonist when he is kicked out getting kicked out of college. When
Dr. Bledsoe kicks him out of college, the Protagonist reflects on his
grandfather last words "undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to
death^"(Emerson 16). For a moment, the Protagonist wonders if his
grandfather might be right. However, due to the Protagonist fear of
failure, the Protagonist doubts his grandfather wise words, because he
does not want to believe that his role in life is to undermine the
white man. So, the Protagonist convinces himself that the Dr. Bledsoe
and the school is right and goes to New York. The second encounter, in
which the Protagonist reveals his fear and not being accepted, is in
the Battle Royal. The Battle Royal is a boxing match involving nine
other African American boys who have to fight until the last man is
standing. The protagonist endures this degrading act as ploy, so that
he can be able to read his speech, in the hope of impressing the elite
white men of the town. The Protagonist fear of not being looked upon
as an uneducated cause him to be the subject of a brutal beating, which
knocks him out and torturous electrical shocking. In addition, the
Protagonist fear of not being acceptance is his denial of being a
"Negro". The Protagonist encounter with Dr. Bledsoe exemplifies his
denial. The Protagonist looks up to Dr. Bledsoe as a model of what he
wants to be. However, when Dr. Bledsoe called the Protagonist an
"educated fool" (Ellison 140) and an Nigger; the Protagonist ignores it
because of his denial of being a Nigger, but under normal circumstances
a person would get angry and upset. Dr. Bledsoe name is also a play on
word, because when he calls the Protagonist a Nigger, he bleeds his
people so. Dr. Bledsoe bleeding of the Protagonist shows his disregard
for his own people. The Protagonist fears of not being accepted is
also evident when he continues to believe that he would get back into
the college even after getting kicked out. The third situation that
the Protagonist encounters is with Ras the Destroyer. Ras character is
one of a total opposite of the Protagonist. Ras's goal is the
destruction of the white man. As the Protagonist, enter a brotherhood
of both white and black people, he finds himself at odds with Ras, who
refuses to have a brotherhood with white people. Although the
protagonist is able to avoid any real conflicts with Ras, he is called
an "educated fool" (Ellison 292) once again this time by Ras, when the
Protagonist comes to the aid of his friend Clifton. The Protagonist
holds his education in high esteem and is in a complete state of shock,
by being called a "educated fool" once again. However, the greatest
impact that Ras has on the Protagonist is at the end of the Novel.
This occurs when the Protagonist is attacked by Ras. The Protagonist
calls out that "They want this to happen". The Protagonist refers this
statement to the brotherhood, which is not a brotherhood at all!

But it is too late. Ras is intent on killing the Protagonist. When
the Protagonist finally escapes, the Protagonist is desperate and wants
to hide. In the end, this leads him to a hole where the Protagonist
feels that he is invisible, which we find him in the beginning. To
conclude, the Protagonist realized even being underground away from
society, his mind would not let him rest. He states that "I'm an
invisible man and it placed me in a hole- or showed me the hole I was
in^."(Ellison Epilogue). This is an effective metaphor, because that
is where life left him. As stated by a German Philosopher, Friedrich
Nietzsche, "A snake that does not shed its skin will perish". The
Protagonist realized he must shed his metaphorical skin of fear and
denial of being a Negro in order to obtain his unalienable which are
rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom he
obtains through shedding his skin is that he knows he is free to be
himself without fearing not being accepted.

1. Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. New York, Vintage Books
2. Latu, Susan. School Web Site. 1998. Phillips, 
3. Elizabeth C. "Monarch Notes" Ralph Ellison Invisible Man. New York, Monarch


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