The nameless, first-person narrator begins by suggesting that for the first twenty years of his life, he has looked to others to answer questions of self-definition. What he has discovered is that it is only he himself who can figure out who he is, but to do this, he must first"discover that [he] is an invisible man!’’ The story unfolds by narrating a scene in which those who are "blind" are not only the narrator, who literally wears a blindfold, but also those who abuse the narrator, sizing him up as mere stereotype, erasing his individuality and human dimension.
The narrator's question of self identity is not restricted to the mere twenty years of his own life but to the lives of his grandparents, who were born as slaves and freed eighty-five years before. This was a freedom that made them rhetorically part of a "United" States, but that in the social sphere kept African-Americans separate from whites like separate ‘‘fingers on the hand.’’
On his deathbed, the narrator's grandfather gives him odd and disturbing advice. The grandfather seemed to live a hardworking and conventional life, but his final words confirm his reputation as an ‘‘odd man’’ who might ‘‘cause trouble.’’ He tells the narrator that he has felt like a traitor and a spy his entire life and should have never given up his gun after Reconstruction (see historical notes, below). He advises the narrator to keep up a "good fight'' by living with "your...
(The entire section is 1435 words.)
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