oa Alternation - Conflicts and invisibility in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1023-1757



I am an invisible man .... I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me .... When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination-indeed, everything and anything except me (Ellison 1965:7). This opening statement has gained the same auspicious notoriety of Herman Melville's 'Call me Ishmael'. Its timbre has resonated around the world, carrying with it the longings of a generation struggling against the 'fragmenting, life-denying, de-humanizing conditions' (Wright 2003:178) that seek to deny their existence. As Ellison's protagonist explains: You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you're a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it's seldom successful (Ellison 1965:7). This essay will examine the web of worldliness investigated by Ralph Ellison in his seminal text The Invisible Man. Discussing, distorting and disseminating the concept of invisibility in 1950's America, Ellison both taunts and cajoles the reader to discover the cloak of invisibility that has covered African Americans through societal indifference, intolerance and ambition.

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