What are some examples of how Marxism is seen throughout Invisible Man?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that there is much in way of Marxism in the story in that there is a culture that represents oppression.  For Ellison, the primary lens is one of race.  The issue of race becomes the defining element.  However, Ellison does embrace the Marxist line of thought in that the power of the White race in the story represents their ownership of the means of production and their oppression of a group of individuals represents how those in the position of power refuse to share it with others.  For example, the narrator's desire to believe that "White is right" is predicated not as much on race but in that opportunities and a sense of empowerment is associated with White people.  This is a Marxist argument in that those who are White are economically powerful, representative of the Marxist idea that material reality determines everything.  The "scheme" of which the narrator feels he is a "queer part" is one related to the issue of control, something that Marxist thought stresses. There is a "scheme," a configuration to keep power in the hands of the few at the cost of the many.  The quest for identity is one in which the individual seeks to define his role in such a predicament and context, which is Marxist in its idea that the individual must engage in reflection and thought about why what is there is there in the first place.  While Ellison openly uses race as the prism through which all else is filtered, there are heavy Marxist implications present in how power is constructed and understood.

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