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"When I discover who I am, I'll be free," says the narrator of Invisible Man, newly awakened, suffering from amnesia (243).
He is victimized by whites, betrayed by blacks, and alienated by institutions, industry, and religious, labor, and political organizations. In the end, he chooses to live abandoned by all in his basement, savoring his newfound invisibility. Ralph Ellison's response to the American anti-black racial problem is not so much a social solution, but an existential one. To be invisible, in a sense, is to be a conscious individual who cannot be predicted or manipulated.
The narrator must reshape his racial identity from one obedient to authoritarian structures to one free to reject all of them. Ellison’s narrator finally achieves freedom by refusing to take refuge in a false public image of himself. By creating an essence defined by the agonized choice of self-imposed isolation from racial determinism, the narrator finally achieves an authentic existence.
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