Ralph Ellison American Literature Analysis
The central theme of Ellison’s writing is the search for identity, a search he sees as central to American literature and the American experience. He once said that “the nature of our society is such that we are prevented from knowing who we are,” and this struggle toward self-definition is applied in Invisible Man within a social context. The particular genius in Ellison’s novels is his ability to interweave these individual, communal, and national quests into a single, complex vision.
On the level of the individual, Invisible Man is, in Ellison’s words, a clash of “innocence and human error, a struggle through illusion to reality.” In this sense, the book is part of the literary tradition of initiation tales; stories of young men or women who confront the larger world beyond the security of home and attempt to define themselves in these new terms. Through the misadventures of his naïve protagonist, Ellison stresses the individual’s need to free himself from the powerful influence of societal stereotypes and demonstrates the multiple levels of deception that must be overcome before an individual can achieve self-awareness. Ellison describes the major flaw of his protagonist as an “unquestioning willingness to do what is required of him by others as a way to success.” Although Ellison’s hero is repeatedly manipulated, betrayed, and deceived, Ellison shows that an individual is not trapped by geography, time, or...
(The entire section is 3110 words.)
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