Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is the Book We All Need To Read

Ralph Ellison

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.”

Invisible Man is the book I will always advocate for. It’s one of the best books in American literature, and it’s one of the most important.

It follows an unnamed narrator who begins his life by attending an all-black university in the south where wonders if it truly is meant to lift him up or keep him down. He makes his way to the north in the hope to escape the struggles of his past and find a new life, but instead he finds himself in the midst of the communist movement in Harlem.

invisible man

“Then in my mind’s eye I see the bronze statue of the college Founder, the cold Father symbol, his hands outstretched in the breathtaking gesture of lifting a veil that flutters in hard, metallic folds above the face of a kneeling slave; and I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding.”

 

 

Invisible Man is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. It’s also rich in imagery and symbolism. There’s just so much there. And each time I read it, I find something new that I hadn’t noticed before.

But it’s also important thematically. It addresses so many issues: racism, black identity (and the problems with trying to cleanse one’s culture), accepting oneself…The list really goes on. It’s powerful and it’s poignant, and most importantly (or sadly), it’s still very relevant today.

Anyway, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Have you read Invisible Man? Heard of it, haven’t heard of it, or just haven’t gotten to it yet?

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