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Character Sketch

If Invisible Man has a happy ending, it is because the invisible man is able to recognize himself as invisible, yet at the same time, accept that he is an individual. Throughout Ralph Emerson s novel, the narrator struggles with many false identities, one after another, because of his desire to be seen. He is unable to see a self, his self, but instead acts out the wishes of others. The Invisible Man s spiritual reconciliation begins with the fate of Tod Clifton, whose death causes him to take a step further in seeing his own identity. With his newfound self, he can then emerge and take action, as an individual.

One of the invisible man s false identities appears early in the novel, he is forced to participate in the Battle Royal. This is in which local black boys are forced to fight one another blindfolded for the entertainment of the drunken whites. Yet despite the humiliation, the blood, and the pain, the narrator concentrates on his speech whether or not the whites would be able to recognize my ability. The invisible man s desire of praise from the whites made him a vulnerable character to be taken advantage of, by not only the whites, but also other characters, like Dr. Bledsoe.

Dr. Bledsoe gave the invisible man the role of an inferior fool. Not seeing the person who the invisible man was, Dr. Bledsoe kicked the invisible man out of school for his own benefits. Because the invisible man wanted to be successful, he did not want to undermine the white society, and he told himself, he s right; the school and what it stands for have to be protected. Dr. Bledsoe manipulates the invisible man to seeing his point of view because of the narrator is blinded by hopes of a successful identity.

The Brotherhood also gave the invisible man a different, significant identity. After the invisible man s spontaneous speech at the eviction of the black couple, Brother Jack gave him a job as a speaker for the Harlem district. The invisible man was taught what to say by Brother Hambro and was criticized if he did otherwise. The only time in which the invisible man spoke from his own heart and mind was at Tod Clifton s funeral, a fellow brother who he admired. With Tod Clifton s death, the invisible man became aware of reality that a black man was kept in a box by the whites and the invisible man must see that in order to progress. It was at the funeral, where, instead of speaking as a brother to a mass of people as the invisible man was taught to do, the invisible man and spoke to the crowd as an individual, to individuals mourning for a loss, and not ending with a political conclusion. Yet the new insight for the invisible man brought great disapproval on the behalf of the brotherhood. The invisible man was not supposed to act on his own actions. When the invisible man defended himself by saying he believed personal responsibility to speak to the crowd, the Brotherhood replied, you are not hired to think, and the invisible man realized that he was invisible to the Brotherhood. They did not want him for his mind, but his mindless obedience. The invisible man had been deceived all along, and that was the role that he was to play since day one in the group. This was the crucial point of the invisible man s reconciliation of his identity.

Tod Clifton s death led to the dispute with the Brotherhood, in which the invisible man realized that he had always been invisible, to not only to the Brotherhood, but everyone. He realized that before he had been nothing because he was nothing to himself. He knows that although he is invisible to others, he is a self and he must form his own identity. The invisible man continues on a search of self-discovery, trying on the mask of Rinehart, then following the mask of his grandfather s words, to overcome ‘em with yeses, undermine ‘em with grins, agree ‘em to death and destruction, let ‘em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open.” Yet the result led the invisible man to the conclusion that he must undergo hibernation in order to act. In the epilogue, where the end is in the beginning, the invisible man is aware of all his false identities and learns that he must accept them before his is able to emerge for action. He is no longer identified as a group, but as an individual. I am the invisible man.


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