by Ralph Ellison
Vision and Sight
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
When there's a lot of talk about eyeballs in a book called Invisible Man, you just know something's up with sight. And you're right.
Reverend Barbee gives a crowd-pleasing speech praising the Founder of the college only to later reveal that he is a blind man. Then Brother Jack turns out to have a false left eye. This shows the flawed nature of their visions—Barbee gave a great speech praising an institution and man that are basically shams, and Jack espouses a horribly cold ideology:
"That is your new name," Brother Jack said. "Start thinking of yourself by that name from this moment. Get it down so that even if you are called in the middle of the night you will respond. Very soon you shall be known by it all over the country. You are to answer to no other, understand?" (14.133)
As for the narrator, he comes to believe himself an invisible man because no one actually sees him for who he is—but as someone of whom they can take advantage:
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. (Prologue.1)
Realizing this social invisibility, the narrator decides to pair it with actual invisibility, and drops out of sight for an indeterminate amount of time.