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Intertwining Fates as a Motive for Invisibility in Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man

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Invisibility is a motif introduced even before the first page of the novel is turned. Although The Invisible Man was written over a 7 year period, Ralph Ellison uses invisibility as a representation of the status of a black man during the society of the late 1920s and early 1930s (Reilly 20). Symbolically, the black man is invisible to the white man because the latter is blind towards both the reality of the black man’s physical presence and influence in society. The narrator is in a continuous struggle with himself throughout the novel in a difficult attempt to discover who he is in a racist America, and make his mark on a white society. During the search for his identity, the narrator attempts to define himself based on the ideas of others and what they want him to be. In doing so, his fate becomes intertwined with those who have given him his “temporary” identities. Those above him have been using him as tools for their own future successes and gaining power over him in the process. He does not realize this until later on in the novel however, and he works to rectify his mistakes soon after the realizations of self worth and invisibility both become clear to him. Because the narrator had continued to model himself as anything but what he actually was, he was invisible to himself and to the people in control of his life. The fact that the narrator’s invisibility has been brought about by other character’s actions, brings up the issue of intertwining fates. Ellison uses characters and locations to accentuate this theme even more.
One of the first instances of intertwining fates is at the beginning of the novel when the narrator is a junior in college. His temporary identity in this case is that of a southern college student. T...


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... his leadership for a change, which makes his fate intertwined with theirs. Their own fates are based on the outcome of his speeches. In the case of women the narrator becomes intimate with; he submits to their desires and succumbs to their ideas of him. The narrator’s fate in the novel is always dependent on the actions or ideas of others.
At the end of the novel, the narrator has finally recognized his own invisibility; therefore finally able to redesign himself completely into a person able make a change in society. His experiences will aid him in his fight for power and acceptance in society. The narrator’s previous choices had been those of people around him urging him to define himself based on their standards. By rising above the assigned definitions of himself, the narrator is able to gain a new insight and new persona on and ultimately recreate his fate.


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