The Invisible Man is a black man and those who can’t see him are usually white people who hold stereotypes and prejudices against him due to the color of his skin. The Invisible man is often blind, and can’t see what is ahead. “Ellison uses various incidents to show the Invisible Man’s sensibility to the conflict of black men trying to find their sense of identity and self and the ugly reality of the racial situation in America” (Sheokand). The whites vision is also blurred because they believe they are superior to blacks, and refuse to see things as they really are. The Invisible Man says, “The invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those who I come in contact” (Ellison, 3). Both the whites and black are often restrained from sight in multiple ways. Despite all our efforts to see the world truthfully and clearly, our natures blind us to the corruption of society.
The Invisible Man starts and ends his journey in a hole. In the beginning of the novel the Invisible Man lives in a hidden hole where nobody knows he exists. He is secretly stealing light and energy from manipulated light and power. This is symbolic because why would someone that is Invisible need that much light. It makes him feel powerful, and like he has worth. “Perhaps you’ll think it strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light. But maybe it is exactly because I am invisible. Light confirms my reality, gives birth to my form” (Ellison, 6). Light is needed in his life to prove he is a real person and no one else can tell him differently. It’s ironic that he is in a hole and hidden from the rest of the world because slowly he is gaining power and self-worth without anyone even noticing.
The Invisible Man was blinded during the fight of the Battle Royal. Abruptly, he finds himself blindfolded by many white men and forced into a ring that was filled with bright lights, and smoke filled air. “But now I felt a sudden fit of blind terror. I was unused to darkness. It was as though I had suddenly found myself in a dark room filled with poisonous cottonmouths” (Ellison, 21). The Invisible Man had no idea any of this was going to happen. He was blind to the people who were going to beat him up and there was nothing he could do about it due to the color of his skin. The whites are obviously superior in this situation. He understood that he was there to deliver a speech and was ultimately deceived. Still, he believed that he could give a great speech and wanted to make a difference in others’ lives and be an inspiration. During the speech, he messed up and said the word social equality rather than social responsibility. The Invisible Man battled to convince his white audience he was not being smart by saying social equality (Johnson). Afterwards he says, “The laughter hung smoke like in the sudden stillness” (Ellison, 31). Here the laughter lingers in the air and distorts him by making him feel unaccepted and inadequate. It helps us realize the white men and the audience don’t care about the Invisible Man or his speech they were just there for a laugh.
Soon afterwards, the Invisible Man is deceived once again and forced into a situation he has no control over. Once their blindfolds were removed after the fight, the white men summoned them to a gold covered rug and gave them an opportunity to grab all they wanted. This is perceived as an act of kindness for them, but little do they know the rug is electrified. “I lunged for a yellow coin lying on the blue design of the carpet, touching it and sending a surprised shriek to join those rising around me” (Lee). The word surprised shows us that the invisible man is still blind to the corruption of the whites and thought they could do something commendable for once. “The invisible man’s naiveté makes him ignore the truth” (Sheokand). He still wants to see the good in them and is too ignorant to see their corruption and how easily they can deceive him.
The Invisible Man also fails to see that the powerful people he trusts can also easily betray him. “The Invisible Man does not embody authentic blackness; he embodies Mr. Norton’s ‘dreams’ of blackness. Described alternately as a ‘walking zombie’ and ‘automaton,’ as well as a ‘mechanical man,’ the Invisible Man becomes a puppet or doll, manipulated by those around him” (Lee). Mr. Norton and Bledsoe are too powerful and can easily hurt the Invisible Man. He trusts Mr. Norton and knows he must care for him. “The Panicky beating of my heart seemed to blur my vision” (Ellison, 101). The Invisible man feels this after he brings Mr. Norton back to Bledsoe after his fainting spell. Bledsoe expels him from the school and the Invisible Man is once again alone. Bledsoe went against Mr. Norton’s word and manipulated the Invisible Man for the little mistake he made even though he didn’t deserve it.
Bledsoe’s plan is to trick the Invisible Man into believing one thing when he really means another. The letters Bledsoe sends him with are very deceiving. The Invisible Man brings them to Mr. Emerson who eventually reveals the truth to him. The narrator was blinded by the thought of excelling in life and getting a great job. He was so focused on it he didn’t realize the letters were malicious and made the Invisible Man seem atrocious. “I rubbed my eyes, and they felt sandy as though all the fluids had suddenly dried” (Ellison, 191). Even after finding out, his vision is distorted and he is confused why he would do this to him. After this he still thought people wouldn’t betray him and they could be trusted. He doesn’t realize trust needs to be earned, and he can’t see what is really in front of him. Mr. Emerson’s son says “There is no point in blinding yourself to the truth. Don’t blind yourself…” (Ellison, 192). Even though he is a powerful white man, he even sees the Invisible Man is blinding himself to the corruption of people and society.
The other speech the Invisible Man gives makes him blind in two different ways. Right before his speech for the rally for the brotherhood “He notices a faded picture on the wall depicting a former champion boxer who was blinded during a fight. the boxer’s inability to perceive the dishonest arrangement of the fight led to his own physical blinding” (Thomas). The Invisible Man is just like this boxer not knowing what he is getting himself into and not understanding that the arrangements the brotherhood is making for him are deceitful. During his speech, he physically cannot see because a spotlight blinds him. “The light was so strong that I could no longer see the audience, the bowl of human faces” (Ellison, 341). Ellison puts this in here to prove that he didn’t see what was coming. After the speech, the Invisible Man decides to join the brotherhood, thinking it was a good opportunity. “He never once considers that he too could possibly be blinded by the actions of those around him” (Thomas). He will eventually be blinded by the brotherhood for their own good, and will lead the Invisible Man to his eventual downfall, just like the picture of the boxer.
The Invisible Man is not the only one who is blind, Brother Jack from the brotherhood also is blind from his corruption, and well as physically. Jack doesn’t seem to see the narrator’s real potential. Jack wants to pound in the Invisible Man’s head that sacrifice is essential even if you must lose a body part like an eye (Ellison, 475). The Invisible Man doesn’t have a choice but to obey if he wants to stay in the brotherhood, and Brother Jack uses that to his advantage. “The negro, in a society dominated by white values, cannot afford to be honest, to speak out freely” (Glicksberg, 54). Invisible Man, now in the brotherhood, can’t be himself. He can’t share his ideas and real potential with Brother Jack because he beholds a stereotype which makes him not really see the Invisible Man. Also, brother Jack can’t see that he is following with the corruption of society because in his world it is normal. Physically Brother Jack can’t see his corruption because he is blind in one eye. This part in the novel is when the Invisible Man recognizes the difference between Brother Jack’s vision and his own. “I looked at his eye. So, he knows how I feel. Which eye is really the blind one?” (Ellison, 478). The narrator says this because he knows Jack is blind, but his corruption is very good at covering it up. His whole self-causes him to deceive the Invisible Man and use him without even noticing it.
The Invisible Man is also hidden from corruption in a dark hole at the end of the novel. This is the end, because he moves away from the racism and stereotypes of society and into the self-journey. “He is now not only in figurative darkness but is also surrounded by the physical black space. When he lights the paper of his social identities, symbolically he divests himself of all the assumed identities and roles” (Sheokand). He knows he will never escape the corruption but maybe now he will see it coming because he rid of all his identities and has the light of the paper. “He is in a hole, but he is able to explore, to understand, to see the hole he is in, the trap in which he is caught” (Glicksberg, 54). The trap is all the people who deceived him and the blackness of the hole symbolizes how he didn’t see the trap but now he does. The surroundings of the hole hide him from the stereotypes and racism up there in the real world. His journey really starts when he falls into the hole because he can realize his real self without all the distractions.
He can finally think in peace and not be distorted by all the worthless people in society that could ruin him. “The basic problem is that nobody knows who he is and where he is headed and the world witnesses a ‘spectacle of whites’ busy escaping blackness and becoming blacker every day, and the blacks striving towards whiteness and becoming quite dull and grey” (Sheokand). The whites contrast the Invisible Man because he is content with the darkness of the hole while the whites are trying to escape the darkness. While all of this is happening, the blacks are striving to be powerful like the whites. But they are blind to how corrupt they are and just become dull and grey. The narrator now accepts all the chaos of his life as reality and as stepping stones on his journey to the self (Krasteva). The Invisible Man now realizes this in his hole, and doesn’t want to be dull anymore like many of the people he has met.
Often our vision is distorted, and we fail to see the major corruption of our society because our human nature causes us to want to see the good in people. “The black is not free, but no one is ‘free’;” (Brennan). Everyone in life must face challenges and there is stereotypes against every person in society. Whether it be your skin, religion, house, or money it doesn’t matter because no one is free from the stereotypes. We all want to see the good in everyone and not focus on the bad, but often it is hard. We should try to eliminate our stereotypes to make the world a better place. “Ellison’s narrator demonstrates that even if one believes himself capable of filling the world up with their vision, of dissolving ‘mean egotism’ and becoming transparent, one is more likely limited by people’s prejudices regarding race, gender, and social class” (Johnson). If we believe we are invisible and cannot be hurt by these prejudices and stereotypes then we will succeed in life and not be grounded by them. Don’t be so blinded by the good in people to miss the corruption our society has and the power people must deceive us.