How does the narrator change in Invisible Man?

In Invisible Man, the narrator changes from a naive teen who believes he can get ahead through being servile to a mature individual who, having dropped out of society in disillusionment, feels he has reflected sufficiently to reenter the world and knows that even an "invisible" man may still have a role to play.

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The narrator begins the novel a naïve teenager, desiring to be another Booker T. Washington, a Black leader who believed Black people could get ahead by accepting second-class citizenship and being servile to white people. The narrator's speech on the importance of Black humility helps earn him white approval and a scholarship to a Black college that teaches Black people to be subservient.

Over time, however, the unnamed narrator begins to wake up from his illusions and gain awareness. If he cannot consciously critique his college, his immense blundering in telling Mr. Norton about Jim Trueblood's incest and taking Norton to a wild Black bar and brothel suggests that unconsciously, he wanted to educate Norton in reality, further educate himself, and find a way out of his unsatisfying college experience.

In Harlem, especially through the Brotherhood, he continues to grow and become more disillusioned, as everywhere he goes, he perceives he is seen as a Black person upon whom others project their fears and desires rather than as himself as an individual. He eventually drops out to go underground.

In the act of writing his narrative, as he explains in the epilogue, he matures. Some of the edge of his intense anger falls away (which he finds worrisome—he wants to stay angry), but he also begins to understand that his invisibility allows him to keep loving others and to give up illusions of control. He ends as a person who has engaged in life long enough and reflected sufficiently on his experience to know that "there's a possibility that even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play."

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