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. The journey begins with the man fighting for his very education. Earning a scholarship meant to physically destroy the competition. It showed that to get an education he had to act the exact opposite of an educated man. He had to rely upon his own primitive brutality to insure his education. He was then mocked by having to recite a speech he was to memorize, which showed the total disrespect the people who were giving the scholarship had for the future students. After getting into school, a simple job turned into an unforeseen disaster that would change his life forever. He was to chauffeur Mr. Norton, a founder of the college he attended. Mr. Norton was a well educated but very ignorant man. He felt that the college was doing all of the good that could be done.
He had no idea of the evils that dwelled upon the grounds. Dr. Bledsoe, the head of the college, had arranged for Mr. Norton to go for a tour of the grounds, but didn’t expect for him to see “everything” at the college. Mr. Norton asked to see some of the more unseen areas of the college, so the driver had to oblige him. They met a man with an incestuous past. Mr. Norton was dumb founded, he had no idea something like this could happen at his college. This just shows the many evils we come across in our lives that appear like shadows, taking us by total surprise. The phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind”, seems to hold great relevance. When you choose to ignore the bad things in life you become weak, and when they finally do hit you, you may never recover from the blow. The next destination they reach is the Golden Day, a hotel/brothel which exists because no one bothers to do anything about it. It’s a symbol of what happens when problems are not kept in check.
Inside the Golden Day exist some Sanitarium Patients who represent the many faces of society. What is normal? These patients may have been average citizens one day, but the strains of society have taken their toll upon them. The struggle to blend in with society has caused them such stress that it has robbed them of their sanity. These peoples’ journeys have had to many twists and turns which they could not recover from. After returning, Dr. Bledsoe was informed of what had happened. In a rage he blamed the driver for everything. This shows society’s need to blame someone or something. Nothing can be what it appears to be. Someone has to be blamed for what happened. This marks the end of the beginning of the man with no identity. Due to circumstances beyond his control he is about to have his entire dreams unknowingly destroyed. The man with no name is instructed to go to work for the summer to earn money for the next semester, which he unknowingly will never see. He is given letters to deliver to different businessmen in order to get a job. These letters speak badly of him. Which he discovers when one of the secretaries shows him the letter. He then gets a job at a factory where they make paint. There he meets Mr. Brockway his boss, a modern day dictator. Brockway is king of his domain, the basement, where the work that no one else wants to do is done. Brockway believes he is a self-made genius due to the fact he helped build the basement and knows where everything is. This shows how an ego can be dangerous.
Brockway is willing to kill to keep his position. Even though it may seem like nothing to everyone else, to him, it is his life. It’s his only reason to exist, and he doesn’t want anyone to take it from him. When an accident occurs he blames it upon his assistant, who is severely hurt during the accident. The man with no name awakes in some kind of hospital to find he has undergone some kind of surgery. The surgery, I believe, represents the great changes that everyone must go through in order to get accepted into society. Even though they may be done against our will, or unknowingly to us. He awakes to stumble out into the street to be discovered by Mary, a kind hearted black women who offers him a place to stay. Mary represents those few people who go out of their way in order to help those people less fortunate then themselves. Mary is the one light in the darkness to help the lost traveler upon his journey. She gives him the kindness and support that he needs during this difficult time of his life.
One night he happens upon a large group of people witnessing an elderly black couple being evicted. He gives a speech denouncing the actions of the men who are evicting them. A riot follows, but he escapes by running along the roof tops. A man who heard his speech offers him a job as a speaker for his “ Brotherhood”, which is a combined group of white and black people working for a better Harlem. He has discovered his talent which will lead to his success, and failure. His gift of speech is a double-edged sword, it will be the source of his success, but it will lead to his being used and eventually discarded like a used paper cup. Over the next few months he is trained and groomed like a pig to be sent to slaughter. He is then sent to speak to the people in Harlem to try and unite them together. During this time he meets two unique people, one of which is Ras the Exhorter. Ras wants to lead a violent revolution of Harlem. He is the evil of Harlem incarnate, he has no compassion for the people, he doesn’t care who dies as long as his will is served. Ras does not believe that white and black people should work together.
The other person he meets is Clifton, a black man, in charge of his security. Clifton is a person who believes in all people working together, he often violently renounces Ras the Exhorter. An interview with a news paper reporter leads the man with no name to be put on a sort of trial by the Brotherhood. They are not pleased that the article only deals with an individual and not the whole Brotherhood. This leads to the man with no name to be moved out of Harlem for a short time. After returning to Harlem, he finds that Ras has taken almost total control. He sees Clifton on the street selling small black dolls. This shows how society can crush a man’s will. After an argument with a cop Clifton is shot and killed, a funeral is arranged and the invisible man is ridiculed by the Brotherhood for making a hero out of a traitor. This shows one of the great flaws of the Brotherhood, their inability to forgive their own members. He finally leaves the Brotherhood learning that they valued him for his gift of speech not his view. It is so common for people not to look at the inner abilities of a person, they are often more than they seem. A riot commences and he sees the true purpose of the Brotherhood, to have Harlem destroy itself. This leads to the utter destruction of all he believes in. His journey has led to a turn that passed through hell itself. All he had worked for was for nothing. He was used and had no idea that it had happened. The reason I believe the book was named The Invisible Man, was for one simple reason, he was one of society’s nameless victims. The author of The Invisible Man is Ralph Ellison. He was born in Oklahoma and trained as a musician. He wrote many short stories and fiction for magazines. The Invisible Man won him the Nation Book Award and the Russwurm Award.
He was a charter member of the National Council on the Arts and Humanities. He died in 1994. The main character was a very strong yet naive character. In example, he was strong enough to take the job of chauffeuring Mr. Norton, but he didn’t realize that he shouldn’t take him to certain areas on campus. He was a very trusting character, which may be a good trait, but it could get you into alot of trouble. A good example of this is how he trusted the Brotherhood to support him and his views. He was a strong character in the sense that through all of the hardships that he had faced throughout his journey he stuck with his ideas. The Invisible Man has many ties with reality in the sense that it shows how cruel and brutal life can be. Our main character worked hard to get into school only to have it taken away from him.
The same happened to him when he got a job at the factory. The final and most devastating blow is dealt by the Brotherhood. They took him in as one of their own and made him feel welcome. The made it seem as though they were working for the same goals they he was. Only to betray him in the end and use him for their own misguided wants. This book is similar to the play Hamlet. Both of the main characters are strong yet naive. They both endure many tragedies. Although the ones in Hamlet are closely related to family, they both deceive the main characters to destroy their dreams. The main characters both fight back though, they defend their beliefs viciously never giving in to their enemies.
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