The Invisible Man A Mask For All

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The Invisible Man A Mask For All Seasons Essay, Research Paper As readers of “The Invisible Man,” we can all see some part of ourselves reflected in Ellison’s character. Throughout the novel, the Invisible man searches for his identity, and for what he can believe in. He goes through many steps, and at each point in his journey, he seems to be wearing a different ‘mask.’ Each mask carries with it a different persona and set of beliefs with it that all serve to shape the character. These are masks that many of us have also put on at one time or another, too. Within the Invisible Man, we can see ourselves. Hopefully, we can also learn from him, and see the faults within him, and maybe ourselves. The Invisible Man starts out the book by illustrating his acceptance of

society’s lies when he was young. “All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often . . . self-contradictory. I was na ve.” (15) Here the Invisible Man accepts the masks others have given to him of submissiveness and expected “black behavior,” thus becoming the hopeful, innocent boy at the beginning of the novel. As Invisible Man recounts his degrading experience with the white town leaders, he remembers that his lack of indignation was so great that he did not even mind scrambling for the faux gold pieces, which were only brass coins. That the Invisible Man appears to have little reaction to his debasing experience indicates how firmly others have placed his

mask of passivity and tolerance of others’ actions. Next, the Invisible Man changes his mask to one of a hard worker. This mask, handed to Invisible Man by parents and teachers, dictates that because the Invisible Man is black he should do whatever a white person tells him to do. That Invisible Man has accepted this mask is indicated by Invisible Man’s servile attitude towards Norton. After Bledsoe censures the Invisible Man for taking Norton to the Quarters and the Golden Day, the Invisible Man resolves to do everything that Norton wishes; a clear submissiveness to the will of the trustee. His illusion that, if he works hard, he is sure to succeed is very well imprinted in his brain. Even Norton admits the Invisible Man has a certain machine-like obedience to him in the

following dialogue between Norton and the Invisible Man. “‘Will you need me this evening sir?’ ‘No, I won’t be needing the machine.’ ‘I could drive you to the station, sir.’” (108) The Invisible Man here seems like a puppy dog eager to play fetch with his master, and even Norton seems to be a little frustrated at the Invisible Man’s subservience. Brockway also comments on Invisible Man’s status and his own when he says, “We the machines inside the machine.” (217) The Invisible Man’s unconditional obedience to others is indeed unnaturally machine-like. Then, the Invisible Man puts on a mask of violence. The Invisible Man angers after Bledsoe calls him a ni—r and expels him from the college. “It must have happened when the metal struck the desk, for

suddenly I was leaning toward him, shouting with outrage.” (141) Even the Invisible Man is surprised at his anger, indicating that his actions are not characteristic of his true self, but instead are just part of another mask he is trying on. After the Invisible Man learns of Bledsoe’s insulting “recommendation” letters, he becomes very emotional. He “felt numb . . and was laughing. When [he] stopped, gasping for breath, [he] decided . . . [to] go back and kill Bledsoe.” (194) This drastic emotional reaction is quite different from the Invisible Man’s normal behavior. It is as if the Invisible Man has become disgusted with his previous mask of servility, has thrown it on the floor, and then taken up an entirely different mask of aggression, especially against blacks