Essay about Ethnicity, Invisibility, and Self-Creation in Invisible Man

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Ethnicity, Invisibility, and Self-Creation in Invisible Man

A community may be said to possess a genuine ethnic culture when it adheres to and closely observes a tradition rich with its own folklore, music, and idiom. In Ellison's Invisible Man, the concern with ethnic identity is strong and becomes increasingly urgent in the face of a "foreign" dominant culture. Ethnicity, as a means of self-affirmation is a possible stay against eclipse, invisibility. Ellison convincingly depicts the persistence of a vibrant African-American tradition. But the struggle against obscuration leads to a greater triumph. His characters achieve a sense of wholeness, as ethnic life is seen to complement the national culture. Through the idea of cultural diversity and oneness, Ellison propounds a vision of burgeoning selfhood and relationship. The threat of eclipse is replaced by the possibilities of self-creation and integration.

With the publication of Invisible Man in 1952, Ralph Ellison brought to the African-American novel a stature and dignity never achieved before. For the first time, a African-American writer, with creative verve and freedom, was able to overcome the self-consciousness of a minority culture, to realize the opportunities for greater awareness and fulfillment that are latent in a borderland existence. Ellison convincingly depicts the richness and beauty of African-American culture and tradition in the United States, and clearly shows the inappropriateness of neo-African nationalism. More significantly, he establishes the essential place of African-American culture in American society, and demonstrates the immense prospects that accompany marginal life in a modern world. Alienation becomes a condition of vision. Invisib...

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...________."Ralph Ellison and the uses of the Imagination." Ralph Ellison: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. John Hersey. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1974.

Brodhead, Richard H. The School of Hawthorne. Oxford: Oxford U P, 1986.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.

Fernando, Lloyd. Scorpion Orchid. Kuala Lumpur: Heinemann Asia, 1976.

Gates, Henry L., Jr. ed. Black Literature and Literary Theory. New York: Methuen, 1984.

Hersey, John, ed. Ralph Ellison: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974.

Kartiganer, Donald M., and Malcolm Griffith. Theories of American Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Smith, Anthony D. The Ethnic Revival. Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1981.

Thumboo, Edwin (ed). The Second Tongue. Singapore: Heinemann Educational Books (Asia) Ltd., 197


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