Beyond stereotype, the narrator's conflict is also between the distortion of his identity and his need to cater to that distortion in order to get the things that he needs from white society.
What is most striking about this narrator is his self-awareness -- that is, his keen awareness of his distinct place as a black man in American society. The first line of the paragraph embraces the tragedy of his circumstance: the inability of his countrymen and women to allow him the fullness of his humanity. He denies that he is a creature of fantasy -- "a spook" like those who haunted Poe or a "Hollywood-movie ectoplasm. However, he is, indeed, a creature of racist fantasy. His use of the word "spook" is double-edged, as it was a commonly used pejorative against blacks in Ellison's time.
As a result of the projection of these fantasies, his very tangible body seems to no longer be his own. He is, as Jean-Paul Sartre feared, constantly vulnerable to the perceptions of others, who consistently...
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