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Invisible Man Essay, Research Paper

The group portrayed in Ellison’s Invisible Man, The Brotherhood, is a perfect model of Emerson’s ideas on the conspiracy of any society against the individuality of its members. The Brotherhood restrains the personal growth of the protagonist, and in so doing impedes the development of his own identity. To that respect the protagonist is unable to truly discover who he is until he breaks away from society at large and formulate his own ideas and beliefs. And until then he was unable to become true to himself, and realize who in fact he was.

While growing up in a place predominately controlled by the white upper class, the Invisible Man was an exceptionally intelligent boy. He was a smart and astute young boy and was a rather talented speaker. He was able to formulate his ideas in a clear, and articulate manor. However, when asked to speak in front of the town’s elite he was made a mockery of. Nobody really listened to what he was talking about and was treated in a manor of speaking as an animal. He had stood alone, as an individual and had spoke his mind and he was given no sense of true recognition. He felt in fact, alone and invisible from the others.

Later in his life when the protagonist ends up in Harlem he is riveted by the occurrence of a group of men throwing people out of their homes. Stirred up with emotion and in detesting he stands up in rejection to their cruel acts. After this spontaneous speech of his, he is approached by brother Jack the head of the Brotherhood. After finally accepting Jacks invitation to join the Brotherhoods pilgrimage he is brought to a party. Their he is introduced to Emma an active contributor to the Brotherhood. When discussing the Invisible Man with Emma Jack explains how he rose out from the crowd. Emma responds ” But don’t you think he should be a little blacker? Shhh, don’t be a damn fool, Brother Jack said sharply. We’re not interested in his looks but in his voice (303).” It is here where we get to see the true colors of the Brotherhood. They are not interested in the protagonist as an individual but rather as someone they can use and manipulate for their own personal advancement. However a feeling of loneliness lurks among the protagonist and he thought that in order to fill that gap if he clung to this group he would be able to grow as his own individual and at the same time be part of something far bigger. He did not like the feeling of being alone when standing in front of the heads of the community when growing up.

After being part of the Brotherhood for a short time now the Invisible Man is beginning to feel like he is finally part of something important and that he too is becoming a prestigious figure in that respect. Bother Tarp had given him his link from his slave chain that he broke free from as a sign of reverence. The Invisible Man always kept the chain on his desk because it was a dear possession that Brother Tarp had given him. One day in the office Brother Wrestrum approached the invisible man in response to Brother Tarps chain. “… I don’t think we ought to have such things around! You think so, I said. And just Why? Because I don’t think we ought to dramatize our differences…..That’s the worse kind of thing for the Brotherhood-because we want to make folks think of things we have in common. That’s what makes for Brotherhood. We have to change this way we have of always talking about how different we are. In the Brotherhood we are all brothers (392).” Here also is a classic example of the Brotherhood’s attempt to crush the individuality of its members. It does not want to stress the differences of people because everyone is a brother. Yet brothers can be different they want to create a nation of walking zombies preaching their propaganda.

As time progresses, the protagonist is then faced with a blatant accusation by the malicious Brother Wrestrum. He brings up the issue of the newspaper article that talked about the Invisible Man to Brother Jack, and the rest of the heads of the Brotherhood. ” It doesn’t say anything. It’s all about him. What he thinks, what he does; what he’s going to do……… He wants to be a dictator……He’s what brother Jack calls a petty-petty individualist (400-401).” It is at this moment in time where the protagonist finally realizes what the brotherhood is about. They do not want personal success and adoration by members of the group. The Brotherhood as a functioning unit should be placed above the deeds and actions of individuals. Still Henry is unable to break away from this domineering society and remained as the Brotherhood’s guinea pig.


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