Identity In Invisible Man Essay

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In college, the narrator listens to a long, impassioned sermon by the Reverend Barbee on the subject of the college's Founder, whom the blind Barbee glorifies with poetic language. He speaks of the founder facing the daunting and noble task of “broadcasting his message that fell like seed on hallow ground, sacrificing himself, frightening and forgiving his enemies of both complexions”. The speech insights a passion in the narrator to contribute to the college legacy; however the Founder himself—this figurehead of the college’s power and glory—is sterile, and becomes a figure to the fruitless labor and blind ideology preached at the school. The Founder’s name is lost to history, and he becomes an empty symbol manipulated by men like Bledsoe to preserve the blindness of others. Bledsoe even comments on this principle by stating he’ll “have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am.” This speech marks the first of the narrator’s many moments of sudden disenchantment in the novel. As a loyal, naïve adherent of the college’s philosophy, the narrator has always considered Bledsoe an admirable supporter of black advancement. The narrator’s sudden recognition of Bledsoe’s cynical hypocrisy comes as a devastating blow. The narrator’s disillusionment with society and struggle with identity comes to a turning point when he is sent to the hospital. He notes, “I could no more escape than I could think of my identity. Perhaps, I thought, the two things are involved with each other. When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” The diction and syntax are composed in a stream-of-consciousness manner directly shows his bewilderment and disorientation. Ellison fills this chapter with imagery equating the narrator with a newborn child—he wakes with no memory, an inability to understand speech, and a wholly unformed identity. The lack of

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