Essay about Betrayal of Self in Ellison's Invisible Man

:: 2 Works Cited
Length: 1312 words (3.7 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Purple      
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Betrayal of Self in Ellison's Invisible Man

    In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, the nameless narrator is betrayed by a handful of different characters--for this reason his life remains in a constant state of upheaval throughout the novel. Confusion and a lack of personal vision cause the "Invisible Man" to trust many characters whose designs for him are less than virtuous. Oftentimes these characters betray the Invisible Man, whose reactions to said betrayals form the greater part of the novel.  The narrator's deference to others' wishes and ideals impels his hapless existence. Essentially, betrayal of relationship necessitates the Invisible Man's mobility and movement because of his continual deference to others.

    At the beginning of the novel, the narrator foreshadows the remainder of the book in a dream sequence. He dreams of his dead grandfather who tells him to open a briefcase that he just received. (In the next paragraph I'll address how he acquired that briefcase and its significance in the novel's grand scheme.) The dream sequence in summary: the narrator opens his briefcase and spies an envelope stamped with the state seal; he tears open that envelope only to find another envelope, then tears open that envelope only to find another, etc. After opening a seemingly endless number of envelopes, the narrator's grandfather tells him, "Them's years... now open that one... Read it... Out loud!" (33.) The narrator defers to grandfather's wishes and reads aloud: "To Whom It May Concern, Keep This Nigger-Boy Running" (33.) Hereafter the black narrator does just that. Figuratively, betrayal keeps him running throughout the remainder of the novel, always venturing from place to place and situati...

... middle of paper ...

...rator seems to understand the gravity of his predicament but he never changes his behavior appropriately so as to save himself--instead he defers to the judgement of others and allows the other characters to use him like a puppet. Always his unwise deference begets betrayals, which in turn prompts his erratic and baffling mobility. The narrator's end was not in the beginning as he wishes us to believe--his end came about as a result of his own deference, betrayal, and movement.

Work cited:

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


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


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

Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

This essay is 100% guaranteed.

Title Length Color Rating  
Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man Essay - Using a name to define a person is the simplest way for an individual to remain visible throughout life. Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, purposely leaves the storyteller nameless for that exclusive reason, “’What’s his name?’ The boy read my name off a card” (Ellison 198). Ellison painstakingly excites the reader in anticipation for the narrator’s name to be revealed. The reader is constantly is awaiting a connection with the raconteur by knowing his name, but only to be disappointed. As frustrating as it is for the reader not to know the narrator’s name, Ellison’s methodical approach to writing is only fully appreciated when one examines the steps of invisibility according to the life...   [tags: a novel about insight, literary analysis]
:: 1 Works Cited
1746 words
(5 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
The Significance of Mr. Norton and Fate in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - The Significance of Mr. Norton and Fate in Invisible Man        In his novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison has developed the invisible man by using the actions of other characters. Through his prophecy, Mr. Norton has secured the destiny of the narrator, himself, and all persons in the novel. Mr. Norton forebodes that the narrator will determine his fate, but Mr. Norton doesn't realize that the fate determined is universal: that every being is invisible and without this knowledge, people are blinded by their own invisibility....   [tags: Invisible Man Essays]
:: 7 Works Cited
2152 words
(6.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on Search for Identity in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man - Between the Great Depression and mid-1940’s, many blacks struggled for acceptance and visibility in America. Oppressed by white society and overwhelmed by its control, they often endured countless betrayals and indignities simply for acknowledgment of their existence. In spite of suffering so much, however, many blacks lost more than they had hoped to gain, including their humanity and identity. Ralph Ellison, a prominent author fascinated by man’s search for identity, thought that blacks were invisible primarily because whites refused to "see" them....   [tags: conflict, self-perception, projection of others]
:: 8 Works Cited
2657 words
(7.6 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Invisible Man Essay: The Phases of Invisibility - The Phases of Invisibility in Invisible Man         To be invisible is to be unable to be seen by anyone without artificial aid.  The invisible man is more impossible to locate than the proverbial needle in a haystack.  In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, the main character, I., progresses through various phases of symbolic invisibility.    The story begins with I. recounting the various steps and incidents that led him to realize his invisibility.  I.'s grandfather was a meek and humble man, and therefore surprised I....   [tags: Invisible Man Essays]
:: 4 Works Cited
2006 words
(5.7 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Ellison's Invisible Man: Invisibility, Vision, and Identity as Motifs Essay - Ralph Ellison incorporates many symbols into this novel, each providing a unique perspective on the narrative and supporting the themes of invisibility, vision and identity. These themes can many times generally symbolize the strength of the subconscious mind. In this novel I think that there are several visions that symbolize the narrator’s escape from reality, seeking comfort in memories of his childhood or times at the college, often occurring as he fades into his music. Ellison coincidences dreams and reality to redefine the surrealistic nature of the narrator’s experience and to showcase the differences between the realities of black life and the myth of the American dream....   [tags: essays research papers] 759 words
(2.2 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Invisible Man Essay - Invisible Man Invisible Man: Ralph Ellison Ralph Waldo Ellison was born in Oklahoma on March 1, 1914. From 1933 to 1936, Ellison attended Tuskegee Institute, intent upon pursuing a career in music. Like the protagonist in the novel, Ellison grew up in the south, then later moved to New York City. In New York he met the leading black figures of that day, such as Richard Wright and Langston Hughes, who he said encouraged his own writing ambitions. Ellison became associated with the Federal Writer's Project, where he published short stories and articles in such magazines as New Challenge and New Masses....   [tags: essays papers] 1747 words
(5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Racism and Identity in Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man - In Ralph Ellison’s novel The Invisible man, the unknown narrator states “All my life I had been looking for something and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was…I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself the question which I, and only I, could answer…my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!” (13). throughout the novel, the search for identity becomes a major aspect for the narrator’s journey to identify who he is in this world....   [tags: Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man]
:: 6 Works Cited
2213 words
(6.3 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Essay on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man “All things, it is said are duly recorded – all things of importance, that is. But not quite, for actu-ally it is only the known, the seen, the heard and only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, those lies his keepers keep their power by. (Ralph Ellison, 439) The Christian value system that saturates Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is exhibited in the invisible man’s struggle over whether humility is an appropriate virtue for him to pursue or just a handicap that enables him to be taken advantage of and oppressed by the powers that be....   [tags: Ralph Ellison Invisible man]
:: 16 Works Cited
8038 words
(23 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Essay - The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison The goal of every person is to find their place in society. The journey itself is a hard one, but sometimes unforeseen obstacles make this journey nearly impossible. The book, The Invisible Man, takes us along the journey with a man that has no name. You may think that it is odd not to give the main character of a book a name, but if you think about it, what purpose does a name serve. Isn't is said that a man's actions speak louder than his words. In this story, the man's actions go hand in hand with his words, to make him desired by some, feared and hated by others....   [tags: Ralph Ellison Invisible Man Essays] 1750 words
(5 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man Essay - Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man A twisted coming-of-age story, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man follows a tormented, nameless protagonist as he struggles to discover himself in the context of the racially charged 1950s. Ellison uses the question of existence “outside” history as a vehicle to show that identity cannot exist in a vacuum, but must be shaped in response to others. To live outside history is to be invisible, ignored by the writers of history: “For history records the patterns of men’s lives…who fought and who won and who lived to lie about it afterwards” (439)....   [tags: Ralph Ellison Invisible Man Essays] 2195 words
(6.3 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]