Ralph Ellison portrays racism in Invisible Man

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In Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison depicts injustice through a series of incidents that show how black men are not respected or treated as peers or human beings. One imagines the unfortunate occurrences that black people face and wonders how white men see any life in them. Can they not understand the fact that they have two eyes? Will, they not know that they have two limbs? Are they blind to the fact that they have two hands? Do they not know a man or woman when they see a person with a dark complexion? They haven’t learned genetics to know that the black guy is heavy in melanin. (Ellison) Formalized adverbial adverb Ellison narrates a story about ten people who are taken to the main ballroom to serve as entertainment for the town’s big shots (leading white citizens) in a battle royal. One of them only just wants to give a speech that he gave during his graduation day having been invited but ends up being involved in a fight. A bloodletting fiery kickboxing match where anything goes as they are cheered and insulted with all sorts of names and mannerisms. Chapter one deliberates on the fact that he came to the ballroom to give a speech and ends up instead being thrown into a fight. This depicts his invisibility as he is not recognized for the descent activity he came to do just because his skin is a shade darker. He is described as ginger-colored. He is issued with a pair of boxing gloves instead of a platform or dais to read his speech portrays his invisibility. (Ellison)

“Let me at that big nigger!”

“Let me at those black sonsabitches!” someone yelled.

“I want to get at that ginger-colored nigger. Tear him limb from limb,” the first voice yelled (18).

The first line is a depiction of the school superintendent shouting at the biggest man among the ten. This is immediately before the battle royal begins and the crowd is starting to get agitated as to why they haven’t started fighting yet. This envisages the atmosphere in the room, and the very word “nigger” is a racist sentiment that was used to call black slaves by their “owners” who were white men. The text further labels the black people by their skin color as one of them is referred to as “ginger-colored nigger.” Forced and intimidated by the crowd the ten men begin fighting each other. It is not an average fight by any means as they are blindfolded. Ellison gives us the picture that the boy who came to give a speech loses his dignity by being blindfolded and he goes on to stumble like a baby or drunken man (Ellison).

This text not only suggests racism but also the blatant disrespect of a fellow human being due to their color as they throw inhumane death threats at them for not fighting each other. One person threatens to tear the boy who came to give a speech from limb to limb. They are even subjected to electrocution as they scramble to pick money, gold, and coins on a rug rigged with electricity. One stops to wonder whether these white men have any regard for the lives of the ten people. Do they? (Ellison)

The dehumanizing act of paying the ten people by letting them scramble for their money instead of being handed to them (even though they are eventually paid five dollars each except Tatlock who is given ten dollars for being last on the ring) is a racist act portrayed by Ellison. It is aimed at targeting white readers primarily. Invisible Man serves to highlight the evils of racism and brings out some of the most despicable acts like electrocution on someone who simply came to read a speech to a set of people he viewed in high regard (Ellison).

Eventually, the boy is given the platform to read his speech but not without being mocked for being smart as the crowd bursts into laughter. Ellison seems to present a view that black men are not intelligent and should never be allowed to reach the literacy level of their masters (white people). This is further portrayed by the disrespect he is shown by the white men as he realizes that they are still talking and laughing as he makes his delivery. “How would you feel if it were you? Put yourself in his shoes,” Ellis seems to ask his white readers.

Ellison depicts the imagery of invisible man for representation of racism by expressing that some of the most prominent men in town were already tipsy and for an event where the grandaunt came to give a speech is enough clarity that the black man is not valued or seen. He is an invisible man as he is not seen for what he is or his potential; he’s not even seen in the first place. If he is considered at all, then it is his skin color that they see and curse at it (Ellison).

Works Cited

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Random House, 1981.

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