You’re one in a million, buddy. Er...actually, more like one meaningless speck in a sea of billions. Makes you feel kind of insignificant, right? Nobody knows how that feels better than Ralph Emerson’s invisible man, as he loses his identity and picks up a few fun new ones, such as “liar”, “trouble maker”, and “most likely to sneak into a movie theatre without paying.”
|American Literature||All American Literature|
Early 20th-Century American Literature
|Author||Ellison - Ralph Ellison|
|Early 20th-Century Literature||Early 20th-Century American Literature|
Lies and Deceit
Memory and the Past
Women and Femininity
space . . . . . . it can get a little tricky.
In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, our unnamed protagonist feels unseen by others in society
. . . . . . because, as he says, they refuse to
see him. They slap on plenty of labels . . .
. . . like 'liar' . . . . . . or 'trouble-maker' . . .
. . . but never get beyond assumptions to understand who he really is.
Kind of makes us wonder . . . . . . if we all aren't feeling a little bit
invisible. You would think that with all the opportunities
to get to know one another . . . . . . feeling "seen" would be less of a problem
than it used to be. But it seems like just the opposite.
People have simply invented new ways of ignoring each other . . .
. . . while continuing to wrap each other up in convenient packages.
Our protagonist in Invisible Man, for example, gets more labels slapped on him than a package
headed for Timbuktu. Strangers see him, and instantly make judgments.
And usually they're not very accurate ones. Being reduced to a bunch of adjectives can
make anyone feel invisible . . . . . . and certainly doesn't make our Oprah
happy. But maybe it's not just society's fault.
After all, we're not always honest about how we represent ourselves.
Our boy in the book takes on a couple of different identities.
A total waste, in our opinion, because if you're going to have multiple identities,
it would be nice if at least one of them was a superhero.
Who knows - maybe we're afraid we won't be liked if people know who we truly are . . .
. . . so we invent someone who will get us what we want . . .
. . . even if we know we'll have to face the music someday.
So, why can't we feel comfortable showing people who we really are?
And why do we care so much about what other people think?
Does it have anything to do with the labels we're so quick to slap on each other?
And would we all feel less invisible if we stopped doing it?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.