Ralph Ellison’s classic tale of self-discovery explores and distinguishes stereotypes and prejudices in the North and the South over a fifteen-year period from the mid-1930s. The author portrays the narrator not as a bitter protagonist but as a black man with dreams and aspirations living at a dark time in American history.
The narrator sets the stage for his quest to discover his own identity by stating,
I am an invisible man.
He is determined to find the identity he lacks, but realizes,
I am invisible ... simply because people refuse to see me.
The narrator exists in a subservient role in the South, from which he desires to escape. He recognizes his apparent plight in life but remains unable to discover what it really means to be black in America. Much of his naivete is based on his own inability to view his life experiences. He remains blind to them. Thus, his quest is clear. The narrator must alter his perspective and come out of the darkness.
Ellison demonstrates how blind the narrator...
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