During the early 1940s and thelate 1950s, there were many racial issues circling throughout America. DuringWorld War II, men of color were allowed to fight in the military because “NAACPand other civil organizations worked to end discrimination in the armed forces”(The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom – World War II andPost War).
Because those organizations worked hard to end discrimination in themilitary. It encouraged people of color to demand for equality in civilian lifeas well” (The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom – World WarII and Post War). The Invisible Manwas written after segregation, during WWII, and was published during thebeginning of the Civil Rights Movement.
The novel was a representation of thetime it was written and published, because it supported the ideals that thepeople in the movement presented to the world. Racism today is believed to bemostly erased from society, but many can see that there are still racialstereotypes that keep us all separated, no matter how often we say, “separatebut equal.” In the novel, written byRalph Ellison, the unnamed narrator tries to go throughout society to findhimself, but had obstacles in his path that made him believe in people who weretrying to push him off his path of self-knowledge.
He found that racism wasentirely still present and that it was a factor that made characters act acertain way towards him. Invisible Man usesvision motifs, color symbolism, character betrayal, and the theme of perceptionof reality to help the reader understand African American’s thoughts and actionon self-versus-society. Malcom X, a human rights activist, black nationalist, aswell as a Muslim minister, in the beginning of his reign in the movement, spokeabout getting equality in any way people could; “his indictments of racism andhis advocacy of self-defense eliciting admiration, as well as fear” (Malcom X).Later though, once he abandoned the Black Muslims, he stated in an interviewwith Les Crane that “if the FBI, which is what people depend upon on a nationalscale to protect the morale and the property and the lives of the people, can’tdo so when the property and lives of Negroes and whites who try and helpNegroes are concerned, then I think that it’s only fair to expect elements todo whatever is necessary to protect themselves” (Les Crane Interviews Malcom X);Malcom X didn’t necessarily influence people to break the law, and he didn’twant them to either; he stated in the interview that “that doesn’t mean thatwe should buy rifles and go out and initiate attacks indiscriminately againstwhites. But it does mean that we should get whatever is necessary to protectourselves in a country or in an area where the governmental ability to protectus has broken down,” to describe the areas where violence was so bad, that thepolice couldn’t do anything to stop it. In invisibleMan, Ras the Exhorter’s ideology is somewhat the same of Malcom X’s in thebeginning. Ras portrayed hope and courage to those who needed them, and heurged people to become separate from whites.
While Malcom X didn’t urge blackpeople to become separate from whites, he did try to make them more aware ofthe issues and try to have white people not control his people, just as didRas. Ras seemingly was upset with the narrator whenever he found out that thenarrator surrounded himself with white people and acted with them, not knowingthat they did not have his best intentions in mind. The color white is resembled in literature in a multitudeof ways. In most cases, it means purity and cleanliness of thoughts, spirit,and emotions, as well as innocence, calmness, and equality.
But in a few cases,this color is used to depict death, isolation, and critics. Today, the colorwhite can be seen almost everywhere: the clouds in the sky on a bright, sunnyday, a doctor with his lab coat, the dress of the bride at her wedding; but itis also seen in hospitals where to some it means hope, but to others it meansdeath; in schools, where everyone is separated by their level of intelligence;in prison where some people deserve to be, some don’t deserve to be, and otherswho get out because of their stature. Red often symbolizes passion, deception,and violence in novels (Color Symbolism). It depends on how a person views theworld around them. How a person sees and perceives things can entirely changehow a story goes. Throughout the novel, Ellison uses vision motifs, as well ascolor symbolisms, to shape the story and give the reader a hint at what exactlyis happening in the plot.
Within the first few chapters, Ellison covers howblindness and the color white works of irony. When in unnamed narrator iswalking down the street, he knocks into a man who then calls the narrator “aninsulting name” (Ellison 4). This proceeded to make the narrator angry and beatup the white man, only coming to his senses after he pulled out his knife toslit the man’s throat, noticing that the man is blind. The following day, theblind man reported that it was a mugging attempt, only because he did not knowwhat the real cause was. Later in the novel, Invisible Man is forced to fightpeople of his own race, but has a white handkerchief tied around his face.After the narrator is kicked out of college, he goes to work at a LibertyPaints that sells “optic white” paint. This paint is a special type of paintthat is white, but in order to make it the exact color of white they produce,the company drops 10 drops of black oil into the mixture (200). Right here, itis irony because the fact that the company is called “Liberty Paints” uses adifferent color used to symbolize black Americans to produce their most popularcolor in their entire business.
Nobody know that was the company’s secretingredient, as because nobody would want it because it would spoil the productbecause of its impurity. Since the narrator surrounds himself with whitepeople, he often becomes isolated in society and doesn’t realize the evilnessof it because of his innocence in the beginning. Betrayal is something that everyone faces in their lives.Society betrays itself, the government betrays society, friends betray friends.In a quote from Bernie Sanders, he states that “Election days come and go.
But thestruggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us andnot just the one percent – a government based on the principles of economic,social, racial and environmental justice – that struggle continues.”Politicians today notice that racial issues are still around, but what havethey done to fix it? According to an article on The American Prospect website,it is to believe that the government purposely situates black families into badcircumstances, saying that “Baltimore’s ghetto was not created by privatediscrimination, income differences, personal preferences, or demographictrends, but by purposeful action of government in violation of the Fifth,Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments.” The mayor of Baltimore claimed that “blacksshould be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidence ofcivil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into thenearby white neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the whitemajority.” Is the government purposely trying to make African-Americans becomepeople into what society stereotypes them to be? Create thugs and criminals sothat they fit into society’s stipulations? In Invisible Man, the narrator is imaged in some scenes to be whatsociety though black men were: savages and criminals. In the first chapter,with the fighting and almost killing a disabled man (though unknown to him atthe time), later fighting his boss and then getting hurt because of it, alsowhen he was seducing a woman and convincing her that he did something to herthat was wrong. The Brotherhood ended up betraying IM in the end, as well asdid Bledsoe and Norton, all because the narrator wasn’t the type of person theywanted him to be and he found out their secrets in the end.
Many people today still believe that racism isn’t thebiggest issue in our country anymore. But the fact is that it 100% still is. Invisible Man, no matter how long ago itwas written, shows the issues that lie beneath the rocks.
Ellison shows that generation need to worktogether to make things possible. There is no clear person to blame on the factthat this issue is still real, and why it still is. Today, we must get over ourdifferences if we want to survive without wars brewing in the pot constantly.We must stop being selfish, and band together. “It is to be regretted that therich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfishpurposes.”